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 and build our resilience. 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 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 Charly White and me for a one-day online resilience training on Thursday 22 October 2020 (10am-4pm UK time). Learn practical tips to lower your stress and build your resilience in order to think clearly, combined with practical tools to help you think creatively to solve problems.


Overwhelmed to energised - resilience webinar

At the end of this one-day training you’ll have:

  • A toolkit of techniques to help you notice your stress and anxiety triggers
  • Practical tips and tools to lower your feelings of stress and anxiety, and help the people around you with this too and avoid the fight, flight, freeze state.
  • A set of tools to help you think clearly and creatively to solve problems
  • Confidence to put your learning into action and keep momentum even on the tough days.

This ‘From overwhelmed to energised‘ training webinar is for anyone who is responsible for leading and motivating a team, and who would like to build their resilience and creative problem solving skills. Book your place today!

 

My top 3 tips to help you be happy and successful at work

For the vast majority of people, being successful and happy at work relies on the strength of the relationships with our colleagues, managers, clients and customers. Research shows that we get results faster when we know, like and trust people. We can’t fake that. We earn it. Whether we work in the same location or are working virtually here’s my 3 tips to build strong relationships.

Ask open questions

Ask people about them (what’s your favourite topic? Yep – you got it ‘you’). Listen carefully to their response. Ask them more open questions about their answers. Listen again. Find things in common. Sounds obvious I know, but when we’re busy or stressed out, simple things like asking and listening can easily get forgotten.

For example, a great taste in shoes, knowledge of a local area, a football club. It doesn’t have to be work related; you’re looking for any topic where there’s a common interest.

We get results faster when we know, like and trust other people. And building genuine rapport about common interests builds trust.

Have a give first attitude

Whether it’s online or face to face, go to your meeting or networking event with the mindset of helping others; how can you add value to conversations? Can you help to unpick other people’s problems and be a go-to person when others need help?

Be the person that gives first, invests in relationships, asks and receives and builds on others ideas and conversations. Make ‘How can I help?’ one of your most used questions.

Take an improv class

I’ve saved my most valuable (and scary) tip for the last in this list.

I took improv classes a few years ago, because I wanted to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to be better at thinking in the moment when I was presenting. I didn’t want to be afraid of being asked something that I couldn’t answer. It was scary and also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I use so much of the rules of improv in my working life.

We’re all guilty of over thinking and over complicating things. Many awkward or fractious work situations involve some over thinking or over complication at some point. This overthinking is often the result of fear. Improv forces you to be in the moment. Instead of thinking about yourself, you have to spend all your energy on listening, building on what others have said and making sure the other people on stage with you look good. And in turn, they do the same for you.

You can’t prepare or overthink because it all happens in the moment. If it all goes wrong, it doesn’t matter. No one is judging. You get to laugh at yourself.

The only failure in improv is not stepping up and giving it a go. You could argue that is also true of life and work.

What are you not giving a go because of fear?

A couple of years ago I set up the Lucidity Network – it’s a place to get training, support and connections. It’s a safe space to build your confidence and overcome the fears that are holding you back. It’s a network designed  to help you be happy and successful at work.

If you’d like more success and happiness at work, then  join a network of friendly, non judgmental, successful people who are not afraid to reach out for help or admit that they don’t know what to do, or feel in control 100% of the time. Check out the Lucidity Network today.

Do you ever wish you could put the clock back?

Turn the clocks back

Do you ever wish you could put the clock back and go and give yourself some good advice, knowing what you know now?

A few weeks ago I asked the brilliant brains in the Lucidity Network ‘What advice would you have given yourself on 1 March 2020 – knowing what you know now?’

There were too many responses to list them all, so here’s my pick of what they said.

Stop, breathe and take time to settle. This will be a long process and there is no hurry for anything.

Just. Slow. Down.

Stop judging yourself by ‘normal’ standards. We need different measures of ourselves for these different times.

Don’t leave your favourite cardigan in your locker at work.

Go and hug a lot of people. (Even the random lady down the park with the barky dog)

Go visit everyone you know and love and spend a lot of time with them – appreciating everything (even your sisters annoying habits) as you don’t know when you might see them again. Make time every day to get out in the fresh air and enjoy your surroundings, it’ll make all the difference.

Always have a plan B (maybe a C and D as well).

Buy flour (who knew!?)

Don’t rush to fill up your car thinking that there will be a disruption in supply. What will actually happen is text book economics: no one goes anywhere so demand goes down, the world is over supplied with crude oil and prices fall to their lowest in decades. NOW go fill up

Remind yourself to stay calm. Many times.

It might not seem possible at first but there will be positives, parts of it will actually be enjoyable. Find the positives and appreciate them.

Finish as much client work as possible and enjoy the quiet time in the house before schools shut!

Be kind to yourself and build up your resilience.

Take an office chair home from work – kitchen chairs will hurt your back.

Treasure the joy in spending time with loved ones, hug them a little bit longer as you’ll need it to keep you going over the weeks ahead.

Cut yourself some slack and don’t judge yourself for any emotion you feel over the next few weeks. This is going to be a rollercoaster. Some days you’ll feel ok. Others days you’ll be worried sick. Some days you’ll feel guilty that you’re finding it so hard when you know other people have far more to deal with, and some days you’ll battle between your desire to be productive and your lack of action.

Don’t waste your energy judging others for their actions, just concentrate on you.

The stuff you’re stressing about now will not be important in a few weeks.

Remember you have others who want to help you that you can delegate to.

Buy more printer ink and garden furniture you like.

Strap yourself in and just roll with the feelings rather than fight them.

Tomorrow will be the same but different.

Stop trying to plan too far ahead, you need to focus on getting through today.

It’s going to be mentally exhausting so use the coping strategies that work for you to look after yourself, so you can keep going and help others.

Look for all the positives that come out of the situation. There are many, but it will be hard to notice them at the beginning.

Give all your elderly relatives a crash course in technology.

Adjust your own expectations of yourself. Stay at home parent, working 37.5 hours a week and teaching are three separate full time jobs.

Don’t focus on what could happen, focus on the here and now. Be kind to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.

We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat!

What would your advice be? Feel free to comment and share your advice below. And if you’d like to join this brilliant group of brains, then you can. Learn more about joining the Lucidity Network here.

Why OOO aren’t just for when you’re “out of the office”

Why OOO aren’t just for when you’re “out of the office”

How many emails do you get a day? 10, 20, 50, more?

I wear many hats: journalist and editor; communications consultant; trainer; holiday home owner; creative writing retreat host; barn renovator. I’m in touch with many people and I have a lot of people wanting to get hold of me.

It would be easy to find myself in a state of overwhelm, drowning in emails, too many of which are from people demanding my time, energy and money. Instead I decided to reframe my relationship with my inbox.

I view every email contact I receive as an occasion to help people better understand me and my businesses. And just as importantly, as an opportunity to manage expectations. I control my inbox instead of it controlling me.

Let’s take this latter point first.

Most people use their OOO to let others know that they are indeed out-of-the-office and as such there will be a delay to their reply.

However, even when you are in the office, unless you are a slave to your inbox and have it open all the time – in which case I would seriously question your levels of concentration and productivity – you are not going to respond immediately.

Despite this though, many people expect an almost instantaneous reply. They have little regard for your actual priorities and think it should be all about “me, me, me”. (The person who sent me the press release at 10am and then sent a chasey email two hours later. Yes you. I’m talking to you here).

By setting an OOO each morning and providing details of the likely response time they’ll receive, it helps set expectations. It also indicates that if they’ve got something that is actually urgent to ask of me, they should find another way to get in touch. And always, if clients call or WhatsApp me, I’ll respond asap.

So that’s a helpful use of the automatic reply beyond your usual holiday scenario.

“This week I’m in the Dordogne hosting a relaxing retreat for busy women”
Much more fun though is using my OOO to let people know what exciting projects I’m working on. I’m very fortunate that I get to work with some brilliant minds on activities that really do change the world. My work is also varied, challenging, fun. Why wouldn’t I want to tell people all about this?

I like to set colourful and creative OOO’s that help spread good cheer, share key messages and strengthen understanding of the depth and breadth of what I am capable of.

Some of my recent favourites have included:

Thanks for your message. Today I’m working with the awesome Prisoners of Conscience, which supports people who have been persecuted for standing up for human rights. They rightly have my full attention and so I won’t pick up your message until tomorrow. I really appreciate your patience, thank you. And if you fancy learning more about the important role that Prisoners of Conscience plays, check them out here.

And…

Today I’m writing radio scripts, coaching clients to enhance their writing skills and working on the marketing for my creative writing retreat. I’m also finalising the details for the Lucidity Network’s business book club. If you’re not already a member of the Lucidity Network, you need to ask yourself one question – why not? Hope to see you there soon! (And I’ll get back to your email asap, thank you!)

And…

This afternoon I am helping a client taste test and photograph a collection of Italian meals. It’s a hard life, sometimes. I’ll get back to you tomorrow. With thanks for your patience, Becky 

Now, the astute marketeers among you will be wondering whether this is a GDPR-friendly approach or not. I’m happy to confirm that having checked with clever people who know about this kind of stuff that it is.

They told me that if there is no “sales pitch” included in the copy then it’s absolutely fine. And even then, it’s still ok as the OOO is in response to an email that I’ve been sent. A “conversation” is taking place. This is not me contacting someone out of the blue. The only risk would be if I sent a very salesy OOO to someone who had contacted me to say they wanted to opt out of email communication.

The responses I have received to my OOO’s have always been super positive. People often contact me to say how much they enjoy reading them, how inspiring they are and how they’re going to start doing the same. They’ve also been shared across social media multiple times and Richard Sved even wrote a blog about it! (Thanks Richard!)

In Richard’s blog he comments on how my OOO is “lovely, surprising and delightful” to receive, which leaves him with lots of positive messages about how I feel about my work. Which is precisely the intention. I want people to feel as excited about it as I am! So, I’m going to end this blog by paraphrasing Richard’s excellent blog title and ask you: When was the last time your OOO made someone go “ooo-h”?

Let’s start an OOO revolution. Let’s use it to engage the world in what we do, to share messages of positivity and success, or to simply bring a smile to someone’s face.

Will you join us? Let us know in the comments – and show us some examples of your shiny and sparkly OOO messages.

Becky Slack

 

Becky Slack is the managing director of the PR and comms agency, Slack Communications, and the co-host of L’atelier des écrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France, a four-day creative writing retreat in southwest France and a member of the Lucidity Network.

Are you asking the right question? (Part 1)

Are you asking the right question

Are you asking the right question?  What question might lead you to unexpected answers?

To help you to answer these questions I have to take you back to the very first days of my Ph.D. studies in Cybernetics. And, I hear you say, as many have said before, ‘What is Cybernetics?’

Cybernetics, as a discipline, started between the two world wars. Three people were having a conversation and they realised that they had important ideas that they could not share because they were using mutually exclusive language, which is to say, words and ideas that each other could not understand. The three were: a mathematician, a telecommunications engineer and a neurophysiologist.

They said, ‘we must form a language that will enable us to talk across the disciplines’. They called it ‘Cybernetics’ using a word that Plato had used, almost in the same way that Plato had used it.

Fortunately, the word turns up twice in the Bible. Once where in the letter to the Ephesians, there are ‘gifts to the churches’. Unfortunately, in the UK, but not in Germany for example, we totally devalue it. The word is usually translated to ‘administrators’ or ‘helps’. If you think about it, without good administrators, nothing much would be able to happen!

The other time it turns up it is much more instructive. The Bible says that Paul talked to the ‘kuberneis’ of the ship. He was the ‘kuberneis’ of the ship in two respects. First, he was the manager of the people on the ship. He did not provide them with their energy and motivation, they came with that. His role was to monitor all that; damp it down and provide negative feedback to get them to do what he wanted them to do.

Secondly, he was the steersman of the ship, and this is more informative. As steersman, the wind, the waves, the people rowing and the currents provided the energy. His job was to monitor all that and then steer providing force in the opposite direction, providing negative feedback, to get the ship to go in the direction that he wanted.

The examples are useful in understanding how Cybernetics is such a valuable discipline. It can be applied to something mechanical like steering a ship, or to something much more nebulous like people management. Indeed, it can even be used with disciplines that involve values and justifications such as economics or theology. That makes Cybernetics unique among the sciences.

Cybernetics is uniquely a multi-disciplinary discipline, that one can use to analyse huge complex problems, when all other forms of analysis have failed. Cybernetics has indeed supplied the ‘black box analysis‘ for problems like that. Another Cybernetics analysis may be applied to a complex problem that has resisted analysis by all other means. To do the analysis, first, one tries to describe the problem in the best possible way and then one looks around all the other disciplines to see if there is anything that resembles it in any way or see if it reminds of something about it.

Without cybernetics we would have some form of computers, robotics and artificial brains, but they would probably be very different. The Russian space programme was run on a very mathematical form of Cybernetics.

So, that has not answered the original question. The answer will come soon!

Note: The Wikipedia article on Cybernetics is excellent, as are the references in it.

Look out for part 2 of Genevieve’s blog on Cybernetics coming next week.

 

Genevieve M Hibbs former: nurse (general and occupational health), midwife, Christian missionary, lecturer, elected councillor, mayor and a member of the Lucidity Network. To connect with Genevieve and the other wonderful members of the Lucidity Network join our free Lucidity Facebook community for clearer thinking and better results.