10 ways to stop feeling overworked and overwhelmed

Effectively managing our professional and personal lives is a problem we all struggle with. Maybe that’s because we look outside ourselves for solutions: software, apps, devices, time management systems.

Scott Eblin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, says,

“The only person who is going to keep you from feeling overworked and overwhelmed is you.”

So how do you pull it off? It starts with making one overriding commitment: You must commit to intentionally managing your time so you have a fighting chance of showing up at your best–your most inspired, your most productive, and your most “in the flow.”

So how do you do that? Here are Scott’s tips:

1. Recognize and overcome the tyranny of the present.

People who are always “in the moment” don’t look ahead and make plans to pursue their goals and dreams. Though there are certainly things you need to do every day, much of what you think you need to do isn’t particularly important–especially where your long-term goals are concerned.

That’s why you should…

2. Ask, “Is this really necessary?”

Challenge your basic assumptions about your regular habits. Do you need to have that meeting? Do you need to create that report? Do you need to respond to that email? In many cases you don’t, but you do anyway simply because that’s what you’ve always done.

Eliminate as many “nice to do” tasks as possible–not only will you have more time, you’ll also have more time to be effective where it really matters.

3. Push reset on your calendar.

Sometimes the answer to “Is this really necessary?” is “Yes, but not right now.” What is the most important thing you need to do today? What tasks will keep you from getting that done?

The same is true if something important pops up: Immediately reset your calendar and reprioritize. Getting stuff done is fine, but getting the right stuff done is what really matters.

4. Understand and set your operating rhythm.

We all work differently. Some like to hit the ground running. Others like to start the day by reflecting, meditating, and thinking. Some like to work into the night.

The key is to understand not just how you like to work but also how you work best. You might like to work late at night, but if you’re tired or frazzled by a long day, you won’t perform at your best.

Do some experiments to figure out what works best for you. While you won’t always be able to stick to your plan, you will always have a plan to return to.

5. Schedule the most important tasks first.

What are your priorities for the month? The week? Today? Determine what they are and do those things first.

Why would you work on less important tasks when the truly important items are where you create the most value–whether for your business or your life?

6. Give yourself time for unconscious thought.

Giving yourself time for unconscious thought is key to making smart decisions when you face complex problems. Research shows people tend to make their best decisions when they have an opportunity to review the data and facts and then focus their thought on something else for a while.

How? Take a walk. Do a mindless chore. Exercise. Do something where your body goes on autopilot and your mind does too. You’ll be surprised by the solutions you can dream up when you aren’t purposely trying to be creative.

7. Set boundaries.

No one can or should be on 24/7. Yet you probably feel you are–because you allow yourself to be.

Set some boundaries: the time you’ll stop working, certain times you’ll do things with your family, certain times you won’t take calls, etc. Then let people know those boundaries.

Other people won’t respect your time unless you respect your time first.

8. Be strategic with “yes” and “no.”

You can’t say yes to everything. (Well, you can, but you won’t get everything you say yes to done–so in effect you’re still saying no.)

Sometimes you simply need to say no. Other times you can say, “No, unless…” and add stipulations. The same is true with yes: Saying, “Yes, but only if…” creates guidelines.

Always consider the effect of a request on your most important goals. An automatic yes also automatically takes time away from what you need to get done.

9. Tame your distractions.

Most people are distracted over 30 times an hour: phone calls, emails, texts, office drop-ins… The list is endless.

Schedule blocks of time when you’ll turn off alerts. The only way to stay on schedule is to work on your own schedule–not on that of other people.

10. Remember your impact on other people.

If you’re a leader–and since you run a business, you definitely are–you naturally impact other people. You set a direction. You set a standard.

You’re a role model.

Be a great role model: a person who gets important tasks done, who stays on point, who focuses on achieving goals and dreams … and who helps other people achieve their goals and dreams.

That’s reason enough to manage your time so you’re consistently at your best.

re-blogged extract from Jeff Haden’s Blog on Inc.com

IMG_0664.JPG

3 Factor – Employee Engagement

engagement

3 Factor – Employee Engagement

I recently attended a talk by Sir Harry Burns the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland around his study around early intervention with young people in order to empower them to turn their lives into something more positive. He is a fantastic presenter and the evidence he has collected around brain development and what can positively or negatively affect it is fascinating and made me think about how leaders could adopt this to enrich the life’s of their employees.

I love simplifying things and what I took away was 3 things that help empower people are

Control – having a real sense of control over their working lives, the how, what, when etc

Sense of Purpose – knowing that you are making a difference or heading towards a worthwhile goal

Community- seeing that you are part of the team, company,organisation etc

So how do you do this, well you can hold back on  the fancy questionnaires and start having conversations with your staff around these 3 pillars and really listening to them and empowering them. As Sir Harry Burns talked about, this is not about doing things to people it’s about enabling them to do it for themselves.

Here’s a crazy idea, you could do it in 30 days. Here’s a Ted talk about just that

Let me know what you think about employee engagement in the comments section below and if you would like to read more about how to build the 3 factors into your working life.

VAMOS!

We are all looking for ways to be more efficient in the workplace and unfortunately it seems to be about rationalising or cuts however what if you get an extra 23 % productivity with out cuts?

Interested?

Well there was a study by Bath university around discretionary effort of 700 people and they realised through the study that 3 things would help this Ability, Motivation and opportunity. However I have recently noticed in organisations going through change that employees need more that these 3.

VAMOS the Spanish for to go

V= vision and I am not taking about the interchangeable, sometimes unmemorable cliches that I have seen, what I am talking about is what the manager sees as the future of the team,department etc. Talking about what they picture as a positive future, in turbulent working environment employee need to know that their boss is guiding them to a better place.

A = ability when asking employees to do more, due to changes in the workplace, have you as there manager talked to them about development or a skills gap and empowering them to get the development they need.

M= motivation… There are many theories on this and I have blogged about a few, however, the easiest way to find out what motivates them is ask them, many managers make assumptions about their employees, this can have the opposite of the desired effect.

O= opportunity; whether it is outdated processes, systems, IT or employees getting dragged into other duties that distract them from doing what they are employed to do. It’s your duty as a leader to cut through these distractions to allow the employee to do what they do best.

S= Specific outcomes. Setting expectations / targets whatever you want to call them mean that employee know exactly what they have to do to be a success. Sounds simple however you would be amazed the amount of employees I meet that find it difficult articulate what a good day looks like or their boss changes the goal posts so often that they don’t know what good looks like.

Hope you had a great weekend

Martin

Mindfulness starts with monotasking

 Mindful Leaders or mindfulness in leadership is seen as the current leadership behaviour most in demand.

‘Some of the recent difficulties of Hewlett-Packard, British Petroleum, CEOs of failed Wall Street firms, and dozens of leaders who failed in the post-Enron era are examples of this.(lack of mindfulness)’*

Q: What is mindful leadership, and what are its benefits?

A: Mindfulness is a state of being fully present, aware of oneself and other people, and sensitive to one’s reactions to stressful situations. Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.*
Mindfulness isn’t new, many cultures have used it for hundreds of years and even in western businesses it has been celebrated. Daniel Goleman wrote about it in 1990 although he called it Emotional Intelligence and many now see this as more important in a leader than IQ.
Now cast you mind back to your working day; did you or people around you?
  • check emails when talking to someone on the phone
  • constantly think about all the work you had to get through when you were at a meeting
  • do work when on a conference call
  • Flick between tasks due to interruptions
  • eat lunch,work, text, check social media
  • MY FAVOURITE sit in a course or meeting glued to your blackberry only engaging when it suited you

This is not an exhaustive list of multitasking, please add your own examples

What’s more is that Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford assumed that those who multitask heavily will nonetheless develop some other outstanding skills. He thought that they will be amazing at 1. filtering information, 2. being very fast at switching between the tasks and 3. keeping a high working memory.

He found that none of these 3 points are true:

We were absolutely shocked. We all lost our bets. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.

People who multitask a lot are in fact a lot worse at filtering irrelevant information and also perform significantly worse at switching between task, compared to singletaskers.

Now most studies all point towards the fact that multitasking is very bad for us. We get less productive and skills like filtering out irrelevant information decline.

So before you book your meditation classes (I thoroughly recommend meditation but that’s another post). its back to basics. Plan our tasks. Be present. Complete one thing at a time and do it well. Pay attention to the people around us that we are interacting with…really listen and observe before taking action or speaking.

The number 1 complaint I have on Change courses is that people don’t feel they are being listened to. Such a simple habit / behaviour to help people through change.

If you would like to know more about mindfulness you could start here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wherever-You-There-Are-Mindfulness/dp/0749925485

* extract from HBR

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box

A great TED video about monotasking is below.

Positive Politics at work

Tips on positive politics at work.

‘Politics is showbusiness for ugly people’. No matter how ‘ugly’ it is and how frustrating it may be for you as a leader politics at work is something that you are going to have to deal with like any other challenge at work.

Why work politics are inevitable:

  • Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or                 other basis of influence.
  • For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it.
  • Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way .
  • Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict.
  • People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good.

People Power not Pay Grades

Office Politics often circumvent the formal Hierarchy. Sit back and watch for a while and then note who has the most people power as well as traditional grades and job titles.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
  • Who is respected?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organisation”?

Social Networks at work

Ever wonderred why social networking is so popular today? Well before the internet it was happening in work and life and it is an intrinsic part of human nature. In order to use positive politics well at work you need to understand the social networks present.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
  • Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
  • What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
  • How does the influence flow between the parties?

Build Your Social Network

Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.

  • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
  • Ensure you have relationships that cross the formal hierarchy in all directions (peers, bosses, executives).
  • Start to build relationships with those who have the informal power.
  • Build your relationships on trust and respect – avoid empty flattery.
  • Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.
  • Be a part of multiple networks – so you have a wider picture of how things work and make more informed choices

Listen Carefully
When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say  something that will come back to bite you later. Also, people  like people who listen to them.

Make the Most of Your Network

As you build your relationships, you need to learn to use them  to stay clear of negative politicking, and also to promote yourself  and your team positively. It is up to you to communicate your  own and your team’s abilities and successes to the right people,  and you do this through positive political action. Use your network  to:

  • Gain access to information.
  • Build visibility of your achievements.
  • Improve difficult relationships.
  • Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
  • Seek out ways to make yourself, your team  and your boss look good.

Neutralize Negative Play

Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.

  • Understand what motivates these people and what their goals are, and so learn how to avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.
  • Be aware that these people typically don’t think much of their talents (that’s why they rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead).

Govern Your Own Behavior

Don’t pass on gossip, questionable judgments, spread rumors – when you hear something, take a day to consider how much credibility it has.

  • Rise above interpersonal conflicts – do not get sucked into arguments.
  • Maintain your integrity at all times – always remain professional
  • Be positive – avoid whining and complaining.
  • Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
  • When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take an organisational perspective not a personal one.
  • Don’t rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
  • Be a model of integrity to your team, and discourage politics within it.

I would love to hear about how you deal with politics at work, please use the comment box to let me know your experiences with it.

Some help when making those networks… a great TED Video

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions

Vampires attack on change

Vampires attack on change – a leadership express halloween special

‘its not that people don’t like change they don’t like uncertainty’…. Vampires in your orgainisation will drain the life out of your change process using the fangs of uncertainty.

Below is some things to think about with your Stakeholders to beat the Vampires!

V- Vision, have a clear vision of what it will be like after the change and talk about this often

A- Acknowledge the past -What was right and what is wrong

M- Mediums of communication – Leaders and managers need to have many ways of communication e.g. face to face,in groups, regular 1:1’s, listening sessions. It has to be two way and actions must be taking on the back of this;then communicated. N.B. Vamps love change emails so use them sparingly

P- Process of change – ensure you communicate why it is happening, what will happen,when it will happen, how it will happen, who needs to do what, where it will happen

I- Increments of change – break down the change into small chunks then it won’t feel so scary

R- Recognition of the efforts of colleagues in the change process as you go along

E- Energy – leaders and managers should ensure that their energy and drive for the change is positive and help things to keep moving

Strength Based Development for Managers

Strengths based development is nothing new in sports coaching and development; you don’t train someone with a talent for sprinting, how to be a marathon runner. You identify what someone is good at then in the case of a sprinter you develop and coach them to get better in order to get quicker.

Yet as leaders in business, we have possibly all been managed by someone who will look at a development plan as an instrument to develop weaknesses! This flies in the face of research that shows that when you manage people who are using their strengths they will be up to 23% more productive, they are more likely to stay with the company and be true advocates for that company. If they are more productive and engaged they are less likely to be absent from work. All of these things have the potential to add to your bottom line.

If you don’t believe me, simply reflect on what percentage of your strengths you use at your work then think about what you could do at work if you used more of your strengths.

Ok, you say thats great in theory, but how do you do it?

Get to know your team

1. Use a Type indicator e.g. MBTI, DISC etc. They give an indication of how people like to communicate with the world, what energises them. They aren’t about skills you say, and you would be right, however, it will help you and your team enhance how you understand and communicate with each other, but also what gives them energy and energy at work is golddust!

2. Find out what their values are, not the companies. People are more and more looking at the purpose of their / their companies role over and above the ‘widgets’ they produce. This is especially true of Gen Y and they are if they are not already the future of your company. Help them link their values to working in your team.

3. Get everyone to do a SWOT analysis and do one for the team. Strengths, Weaknesses (what they are not good at but can do) Opportunities (strengths they haven’t as yet been able to utlise in the team) Threats (things they don’t like doing, arent that great at doing and developing these skills will be a waste of everybodies time)

4. Development plans – Concentrate on developing Strengths and Opportunities. Only develop anything under the other two headings if they are crucial to the role.

5. If you can allocate work according to strengths then do so in a fair way.

6. Review, reflect,give and receive feedback on a regular basis about how it is working.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on Strength based development, so feel free to comment.

Hope you have a fantastic weekend

Finally, as a tradition on my site I like to add a TED video.

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?”  His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers

If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” (Simon Sinek)