Is it time to pay attention to your leaky bucket?

leaky bucket

When did the standard response of ‘fine thanks’ get replaced by ‘busy’ or ‘really busy’ or soooo busy’? If you don’t say that you’re busy do people think you’re lazy? Or boring? Or both?!

Everyone is busy. It’s like a rite of passage. But why? Hasn’t life got easier, more automated? What are we all so busy doing?

Are we busy photographing our lunch for social media? Or multi-tasking across multiple apps and web platforms to stay up to date with the latest news and trends? Or are we just expected to live at a faster pace – to achieve more?

Where are you on your ‘to-do’ list? Is it growing rather than shrinking? You are not alone. In the Lucidity Innovation Leadership Launchpad report, the top reasons that people didn’t do ‘innovation’, or any kind of strategic thinking was because they were too busy, too stressed and they just don’t have enough time.

Is stress catching?

If everyone you surround yourself with is in a state of stress it becomes a problem. It begins to self-perpetuate, we start to feel that we have to be busier or achieving more than our stressed-out friend’s family and colleagues.

Tim Ferris author of The 4-hour work week claims that, ‘you are the average of the 5 people you most associate with’. Think about who those 5 people are. If what Tim says is true, what does this mean for you stress levels?

The problem is, if we spend our time being too busy to look after ourselves our stress levels increase to such a level that we reach burn out. A physician called Hans Selye defined a three-stage reaction to stress called General Adaption Syndrome or GAS. In stage three he said:

The body’s resistance to the stress may gradually be reduced, or may collapse quickly. Generally, this means the immune system, and the body’s ability to resist disease, may be almost totally eliminated. Patients who experience long-term stress may succumb to heart attacks or severe infection due to their reduced immunity.’

This is serious stuff. To live healthy lives, we must learn to reduce our levels of stress. When we are striving to do our best, to deliver work for other people, to look after our family and to climb a career ladder we often forget that in order to do all these things we must be OK.

I heard a quote recently ‘You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm’

To get the results we want, it’s important to take a step back and recharge, otherwise we’re just like a leaky bucket, constantly on the go, our energy draining out through the holes. We need to do two things.

  1. Plug the holes – get the root cause of the stress
  2. Refill the bucket – replenish our energy

Tips to help you keep your bucket full

  • Reframe your thinking – stop telling people you’re busy as your default. When you tell people you’re busy, it often makes you feel more stressed.
  • Take time every day to prioritise. It might just be 10 minutes, for example, at the end of the day to plan your priorities for the following day.
  • Take time every day to list and then reflect on what you’ve achieved that day. Write them down.
  • Get a mentor or a coach; a trusted person to help you focus on what’s important and make progress and help you to manage the feelings of being really busy.
  • Start to notice what triggers your stress, is it a person, a situation? What physically happens to you when you are experiencing stress? Feeling hot or cold, like you can’t think straight, agitated? Start to notice your stress triggers and your response.
  • Next time you feel your stress triggered, try and manage it, for example, go for a walk or phone a friend.
  • Say ‘no’ more often. If you are really busy and taking on something else is too much, then say so. You could offer a different solution, e.g. is there someone else that could help, or negotiate deadlines, could it be done next month when you have more time rather than immediately?
  • Make time to do the things that you love, whether that’s spending time with friends and family, the movies, theatre, reading a book or going for a run. All these things are your fuel – they refill your bucket. Don’t wait until your bucket is empty before you do them. Do them regularly and keep your bucket full.

Let me know how you get on.

If you’d like some help with making time to think, upping your productivity and reclaiming your ‘me-time’ you might benefit from joining the Lucidity Network. It’s a pick and mix of online and offline learning and connection to a dynamic network of people that can help you. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Join the Lucidity Community Facebook group to get in the Lucidity groove for clearer thinking and better results and be the first to hear when the Lucidity Network is open for members.

Five ways to thrive in 2019

5 ways to thrive in 2019

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, January and February can feel like a bit of a slog.  It’s cold. We leave the house in the dark and come home in the dark. That flu virus that sprang up in October is still doing the rounds. We’re still secretly recovering from the overindulgence of Christmas and thriving can feel like the last thing we’re doing.

That’s why last month it was such a breath of fresh air to interview Colette Heneghan of Optimum Living about how to thrive. Colette specialises in helping people working in high-pressured corporate environments as she puts it ‘to be the architect of your own day and not the victim of it.’

If you’ve never felt stressed out by your working day or never felt like you’re stapled to the mattress when the alarm clock goes off in the morning then stop reading. This blog will be a waste of your time.

If, however, you’ve ever felt just tired all the time and overwhelmed by juggling lots of different tasks and priorities. Or if you’ve ever had a day when it gets to 4 pm and you realise you’ve not eaten, or been to the toilet and your feet are like ice blocks because you’ve not moved for six hours then read on.

Colette helps people because she’s been the ambitious burnt-out person and so has a stack of practical tips and tools to turn you from a victim to an architect.

Colette’s advice is to first know the signs that you are not thriving. We’re all different but the most common ‘red flags’ are cancelling social plans because you’re too tired because of work. A one-off is nothing to worry about but if it becomes ‘normal’ to choose catching up on work over friends and family then it’s time to take a step back.

The second common ‘red flag’ is how you feel when your alarm clock goes off in the morning. If more often than not you feel dreadful, like you have to drag yourself out of bed, or for example you have to roll onto the floor so you are so uncomfortable you have to get up (which of course I’ve never done) then that’s bad too.

And if you often feel overwhelmed that you can’t get everything done and end up jumping from one thing to the next, working through lunch and not getting through your list that’s a ‘red flag’ too.

Colette’s first piece of advice is to take a step back give yourself a break. Then start with a blank screen or a blank notebook and write down everything you’re working on and everything that is stressing you out. Get it all in one place so you can see what you’re dealing with. Then she advises not to make big radical changes all in one go, but to make small changes and ‘Never underestimate the power of quiet consistency’.

Colette suggests five things to prioritise in order to thrive:

Seek out daylight early on

Daylight sets our energy dial-up high and helps us sleep later on by regulating our sleep/wake cycle. Also known as your circadian rhythm, the sleep/wake cycle is a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Start to notice what times of day you feel more awake. For example, most people have a slump in the afternoon. Work with your natural cycle and do the hard work, the things that you have to really focus on either earlier or later in the day when you are in the alert part of your cycle.

Eat the rainbow every day

We mean fresh fruit and vegetables and the more brightly coloured the better. Different coloured foods play different roles in the body. Eating a variety of colourful food provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish your body that can’t be replicated in a supplement. Aim for at least three colours at every meal and two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables over the course of the day. (Skittles or the cherry on your Tequila Sunrise don’t count here).

Move more

Our bodies were designed for motion not for sitting behind a desk for hours on end. You don’t have to fork out for a gym membership or a new personal trainer. It’s the small things that add up every day, for example, get off the tube or bus one stop early, take the stairs instead of the lift, set an alarm during the day to get up and have a walk and a stretch every hour, or you might even start your day with a 20-minute workout fresh from YouTube.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can affect your immune system, making you more likely to get sick with colds, flus and other illnesses. Set yourself up to have the best nights sleep. Get into a pattern to go to sleep at the same time each night, switch of screens, make the room dark, control the temperature – on the cool side is better than too warm and make it a comfortable place with good pillows and duvets, an environment that you look forward to being in.

Hydrate

Get into the habit of carrying water with you in a reusable bottle. Remember to sip from it regularly throughout the day. It’s a simple ritual to top up energy and daily focus, but because it’s so obvious we often overlook it.

I suspect that the tips above aren’t new news. Think about how you are working right now? What things can you, and want to work on from the list above to help you thrive?

There’s often a gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do. So plan your day to close that knowing-doing gap. For example, if you want to be better hydrated, carry a water bottle, if you want to eat the rainbow stock your fridge and cupboards with fruit and veg. You know it. Now do it and make the small changes that will make a big impact on your ability to thrive.

If you’d like more tips and tools to thrive then check out Colette’s latest book Work Fuel available in March 2019 and pre-order here.

The ‘How to thrive in 2019 webinar with Colette Heneghan is part of the exclusive content available to Lucidity Network members.

The Lucidity Network is a professional development network that combines a mix of face-to-face meet-ups, online toolkits and access to a community that supports you in getting the results you want. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime, you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group for clearer thinking and better results.  

Who you know is how you get stuff done

Business people connecting puzzle pieces - who you know is how you get stuff done

Think about how you usually get stuff done. I mean the important stuff, how you will get your next job, find your next exciting holiday destination or make your ideas happen?

I believe that important stuff gets done because of the people you know as well as the people who know the people you know. It’s all about networks.

Consider this. Someone asks you for a favour. How do you decide whether you do it? From my experience there are three key factors;

  • What’s in it for you? – for example, will you enjoy it, will it be a good experience, will you learn something new, will it raise your profile, fill empty time, make you feel good?
  • How they ask – have they thought about what’s in it for you, have they asked you, well ‘nicely’, have they overcome and obstacles that might prevent you from doing the favour?
  • Do you know, like them and trust them? – how well do you know them, are they credible, do you like them, would you feel good to help them out?

When these three factors are in all place stuff gets done. If one or more factor isn’t quite right stuff stalls.

Think about it, someone you know like and trust asks if you would meet a colleague to give them some advice. They know your time is limited so they offer that the meeting is near your office at a time that suits you. They know you like coffee in the morning, so they suggest your favourite local coffee shop for breakfast as the meeting place. They are appreciative that you would consider helping them out. They also suggest that the colleague might have skills and experience that could help you with a project you are working on.

You are busy.  You are more likely to do the favour because you know, like and trust the person, they asked you well and they spelled out what could be in it for you.

All the factors compound, if someone you didn’t know or like, or didn’t ask well or didn’t make it clear what was in it for you you’d be much less inclined to say yes.

So, it makes good business sense to get to know your colleagues, because more stuff will get done.

And when it comes to innovation having a diverse network is important. Research shows that humans tend to gravitate to other people like them, people from similar backgrounds, with similar viewpoints. When we all have a similar experience, we start to think the same. We start to operate in an echo chamber of our own similar ideas. If innovation is about thinking differently and developing new ideas then we need people in our network that are different from us, that will challenge and build on our ideas. And because we naturally gravitate to people like us we need to be deliberate about seeking out a diverse network made up of different experiences, perspectives and thinking. That’s where, I believe, successful innovation lies.

One of the reasons I’ve set up the Lucidity Network – a pick and mix of online and offline practical tools and advice as well as access to a dynamic network of expertise. Already we have members from a mix of sectors from around the world. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

Six tips for being more productive

Do you ever have weeks when you are learning so much you feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants? It’s not a bad thing but it can feel a bit overwhelming when all the new learning activities collide at the same time.

So the irony of learning how to host my first webinar, on the new Lucidity Network by interviewing Grace Marshall, Productivity Ninja on how to be more productive and manage overwhelm is not lost on me.

The truth is that I really enjoyed the webinar (and if you were watching I hope you did too) and I learned practical tips to keep being productive and better manage that ‘seat of pant’ feeling. Here are my key take-outs.

Taking time to think is fuel for your productivity

Reframe ‘thinking time’ which often in a busy working week can feel like a luxury, as ‘fuel for your productivity’. If we don’t take time to think it’s hard to know where to focus, what to prioritise and what to say no to. Making time to think, whether that’s 10 minutes each day to readjust your to-do list, or an afternoon every month to plan the next month’s activity is critical to your productivity. Sadly, not everyone values thinking time as productivity fuel. If this is true of the environment that you work you may have to operate in stealth mode. Call ‘thinking time’ something different in your diary. Try ‘strategy planning’ or ‘business development’.

Go frog hunting

With reference to the infamous business book ‘Eat that Frog’ do the difficult and important stuff first and go frog hunting. You know that difficult client call that you put off making, the budget spreadsheet that you need to send to finance or the health and safety briefing notes that had to be submitted yesterday. Stop spending time putting it off and just to it.

Carving time out

Carve your day up into different modes of thinking, depending on your own productivity peaks and troughs. For example, if you are a morning person this might be the best time to do your deep dive thinking – the stuff that you really need to concentrate on and think deeply about. If, as Grace puts it, you go into ‘zombie mode’ after lunch do the tasks that you don’t have to think very much about then. There is a time after zombie mode – when you are starting to get your energy back that according to research featured in Dan Pinks book ‘When’ is the best time for creative thinking and idea generation.

Overwhelm

If you feel like you have way too much to do and overwhelm is creeping in, Grace recommends you write everything down. Get everything buzzing around in your head out onto paper. Here you can make sense of it and put it in order. Often we find that once we can see everything in front of us it becomes more manageable and less overwhelming.

Want and should

Many of us want to please other people and because of this end up saying ‘yes’ to more than we can take on. We have a choice. We can differentiate between what we ‘want’ to do and what we feel we ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do. We can say ‘no’ and when we do, its important to give clear reasons why it’s a no, for example working on another deadline or don’t have the skills and perhaps offering alternatives (longer deadline or a colleague who might be better placed to complete the task). Too often people say ‘yes’ (because they don’t want to say no) and then don’t deliver and let people down which is, in my opinion, far worse than simply saying no.

It’s up to you

We all have the same amount of time yet some people are more productive than others. It takes discipline and focus and saying no to the things that are not important to concentrate on the good stuff that has potential to make a bigger impact. It’s up to each of us to prioritise our time as the fuel of our own productivity. Whatever you choose to spend your time doing – make it count.

The recording of the webinar is available for members of the Lucidity Network. If you’d like access to exclusive content, be connected to a diverse network that can help you to be more productive then sign up for the Lucidity Network. We open a few times a year. To be the first to know when membership is open and also access special offers head on over to the Lucidity Facebook community. 

PS For more productivity tips and advice I also recommend you check out Grace’s book ‘How to be really productive’

The secrets of larks and owls – because when you do things matters

I’ve been mocked for napping in the afternoon for many years so I was delighted to read Dan Pink’s latest book ‘When – the scientific secrets of perfect timing’ for his endorsement of napping as well as some fascinating insights about how absolutely everything is about timing.

Do you ever feel like you’ve hit a mental block or that you are working in slow motion in the early afternoon? Do you blame it on a post-lunch carb slump? It turns out that how you feel after lunch might be less about the carbs and more about you being a lark.

Dan’s research shows that adults broadly fall into two categories: larks and owls. As the name suggests larks rise early and do their best work in the mornings – owls follow a different pattern and do their best work later in the day. (There are also a few third birds who are somewhere in the middle but you need to read ‘When’ to find out more about them.)

Most of us are larks.

Dan’s research shows that we all fall into a daily pattern of when our brains are most alert, followed by a slump and then a recovery. Our lark or owl tendencies dictate at what times of day we are alert, slumping or recovering.

However, the research shows that it’s more than just about when we do our ‘best’ work. If you are a lark the morning is the best time for analytic tasks, tasks that you need to think about in detail, likewise morning is the best time to make decisions. Larks are better at insight tasks – tasks that require lateral thinking to solve problems during late afternoon or early evening when you are coming out of the slump. When you are right in the slump that’s the best time to do the admin tasks, the things you don’t need to think carefully about. Or better still take a short nap.

As a freelancer, I already work to this pattern when I can. I do the hardest stuff in the morning – the things I need to think about. I’ve learned that it’s much more efficient for me to get up earlier than keep working late at night. The same task can take half the time in the morning than it can the evening. I save the easier tasks for the afternoon slump and whenever I can I take a quick afternoon nap.

If you work 9-5 napping might be problematic, (unless you work at Google, famed for having sleep pods for employees to nap when they like) however within the framework of your day there are there things you can do to encourage your lark and owl traits to be more productive.

For example, if you are a team of larks and have a catch-up meeting in the morning – don’t. You are wasting the best part of your day on tasks that don’t need that morning analytical attention. Instead, have the catch up in the slump and focus on analytical tasks in the morning. If you are an owl can you start work later when you are at your best and work later in the evening?

What might you be able to do to adjust your ‘when’ and your teams ‘when’ in order to play to individual and team strengths and be more productive?

You can get your copy of ‘When’ the scientific secrets of perfect timing here.