Why I don’t advise you to try…

A while ago I found an old diary that I used to keep as an early teenager, the one where I used to write down what was No1 on Top of the Pops together with things I wanted to buy when I had a job, as well as general thoughts. I think Adrian Mole might have inspired me. Although my diary was distinctly less interesting than Adrian Mole aged 13 and three quarters. I seemed to spend a lot of time with my friend Clare Chapman looking wistfully in Rumbelows window at clock radios.

My diary contained a list of New Year Resolutions. One of them was to ‘try and be nicer to my brother.’ Jon Gower I’m sorry. That was such a poor attempt and intention.

The bit I’m talking about here is this word ‘try’. 

Think about it. Your friend who is usually late says ‘I’ll try and be on time.’ You know they’ll probably be late. You agree to try to walk 10,000 steps a day. You’re probably going to fall short. You try to finish work on time and inevitably you end up working late again.

When I’m working with clients and I hear them say they’re going to ‘try’ my heart sinks. Because I know the likelihood of them achieving the thing is immediately lowered because of how they are talking about it and therefore approaching it.

The likelihood of them achieving the thing is lowered because of what happens when we say ‘try’. By saying you’re going to try you’re already sending your brain a signal that it’s OK not to achieve the thing. Your intention is to try – not to succeed.

Setting intention is important. There is a big difference between telling your brain you’re going to try and telling your brain you’re going to do it. Start with a positive intention. Tell yourself (and others – we’re more likely to succeed if we’re accountable to others) that you’re going to arrive on time, you’re going to walk 10,000 steps and that you’re going to leave work on time.

I don’t want to go all Yoda but he did have a point when he said ‘Do or do not, there is no try’.

When I challenge people on the use of ‘try’ one of the things that comes up is this notion of failure. That it’s OK to try and fail. I agree. It is. However you’re already signalling that a fail is likely by simply setting out to try. Commit to achieving. Then if you don’t manage it, then that’s OK. Changing anything is hard enough, so set yourself up with the best chance of succeeding by aiming to achieve not just to try.

If all you’re wanting to do is ‘try’, it’s probably worth a conversation with yourself about whether you really want to do the thing in the first place.

So the next time you set out to ‘try’. Have a word with yourself. Are you serious about achieving this thing? If no, then unpick that – why not? If yes, then set out to achieve it. If you set out with the intention to achieve it and then you don’t – then that’s OK.

At the Lucidity Network we ask people to set their intentions every single week. Because when we set an intention we’re more likely to have success. How we set our intention is important. Set out to achieve not just to try. If you’d like to join us and increase your chances of success – get in touch at lucy@lucidity.org.uk. 

Note* I am nice to my brother all the time.

Don’t feel guilty about taking an afternoon nap on a Tuesday

I love a nap in my working day. It’s not always possible. (for example when I’m running a training course or a strategy day!) However, now so many of us are working from home it does provide more opportunities for napping. And napping can help our focus and productivity.

When I first left a ‘proper job’ and started working for myself, I was thrown sideways by how hard I found it. I completely underestimated how much I’d miss my colleagues and having people to bounce ideas around with. I also found it really hard to focus and get the work done. That’s why I put in a lot of effort into testing different ways of working until I found the things that worked for me. My important findings were:

It doesn’t matter when you do the work as long as you deliver what has been agreed, on time and to a high standard. Humans are not designed to work from 9am to 5pm. This is a leftover from when a large number of the workforce worked on production lines when everyone had to be there at the same time in order for the thing to get made. Today, especially now so many of us are working from home there is flexibility to work the hours that better suit us. That might be working around childcare and family commitments as well as daylight hours and when we do our best work.

The time of day that you do different tasks can help your productivity. We all have cycles; times of day when we’re more alert and decisive, times when we’re more creative and times of day when stringing a sentence together feels like a struggle.

I’m definitely more productive and have better attention to detail early in the morning. That’s when I need to do the difficult stuff that I need to think about. By 2pm my brain is getting foggy and I shouldn’t be trusted to do or remember anything important. Later in the afternoon I perk up again and can often have a really productive few hours. There’s no point working late at night. I’d rather get some sleep and get up at 5am. The same piece of work that will take me 3 hours at 10pm, will take me an hour (and will be better quality) if I do it at 5am.

Naps help my productivity. I love a nap. My body clock is definitely geared to wake up early, get stuff done, have a mid afternoon nap, wake up do more stuff and then bed at a reasonable hour. I was pleased to discover that there is much research showing the health benefits of naps. They can improve cognitive performance as well as boost mental and physical health. Naps help us to stay alert, can reduce stress, and we’re more productive as a result. There’s even such a thing as a nappuccino. (Coffee before a nap. For full details download the step-by-step guide to the perfect nap here)

Often when I’m running sessions with teams about establishing habits for happy and productive flexible working, including naps and working different hours, the topic of guilt emerges.

I hear things like ‘If I’m not at my desk from 9-5 I feel guilty.’ or ‘I’d feel too guilty to nap’ or ‘I feel guilty if I don’t answer my email straight away’

Is guilt healthy or unhealthy?

Guilt can be healthy. Feelings of guilt can motivate you to live according to your values, which, in turn, can improve your relationships with others, since you’re more likely to treat them as you would wish to be treated. However, unnecessary feelings of guilt can be unhelpful or even harmful to your quality of working life.

If the thought of working different hours or taking naps in your working day sparks feelings of guilt keep reading. Below are some tips to help you tackle these feelings. It will take practice and deliberate re-thinking to change entrenched patterns of guilt. Be patient with yourself and your team. Remember flexible working is here to stay and for it to be a happy and productive experience the best time to tackle any guilt about working flexibly is now.

Be direct and get more information. Ask your colleagues and manager whether it matters when you work. If you’re part of a team it’s important to agree and communicate when your working hours are. Good use of an out of office responder or a line in your email signature to let people know when you’re there and when you’re not can help manage expectations too.

Napping has been proven to increase productivity. Rather than pushing yourself through the brain fog, a better use of your time is to take a nap and return refreshed and more alert. It will make you more productive. Have a go at reframing a nap as a productivity hack.

Challenge your expectations of yourself Consider whether you have a tendency to expect too much from yourself. Then, think about how an outside observer would view the situation. What would an outsider say?

Think how you’d see things if the roles were reversed. What would you think if your colleague said they were going to nap between 2 and 3 each day and work an hour more at the start or the end of the day? We often find it easy to be compassionate and understanding with others but are too harsh on ourselves. By deliberately taking the other person’s perspective, you’ll likely see your situation in a more objective light.

Look for the evidence. If you feel guilty not working the conventional 9-5 because you’re feeling that you’re ‘not doing enough’ or feel that others will think you’re not doing enough, list all the things that you’ve delivered on at work. Will working different hours make any impact on your ability to deliver?

Give yourself permission. Or if you manage a team, explicitly give your team permission (or you could even set it as a task) to figure out when they are most productive, when they are least productive and when a nap would be beneficial. Experiment to find the working patterns that work best for you. Agree them with your team and ensure everyone knows. This manages expectations and reduces feelings of guilt.

Working flexibly is here to stay. It’s a big shift in mind-set for everyone. It’s important that we look after ourselves and each other. Rest when we’re tired, work when we’re at our best and nap when we need to.

If you’d like help to ensure that your team is happy, productive and guilt free in their flexible working life, drop me a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

Tips to get the best from your team when working remotely

Working remotely is here to stay and it brings with it a mix of opportunities and challenges. It means saving time and money on commuting, being home to meet the kids from school and with the right leadership and culture, the flexibility to work at the time of day when you’re at your best.

There’s a definite downside though.

Boundaries between home and work are easily blurred when your desk is the kitchen table. It can be difficult to switch off when work and home are the same places. Many of us can feel that life is all work with no space to really switch off, and this plays havoc with our personal life and our wellbeing.

If you don’t have the right leadership and culture, that genuinely allows you the flexibility to choose when you work and when you take time away from your desk to recharge, working from home can take it’s toll.

Life might feel more uncertain than usual right now. Human beings crave certainty and want to feel safe. When we don’t feel safe, our anxiety and stress levels rise and fear takes over.

I see fear playing out in different ways in pandemic working life. Some of the behaviours that might feel manageable in an office become unmanageable when working from home on your own without regular in person contact.

Micro management – it can make us feel in control and reduce the anxiety associated with uncertainty when we micro manage. However if you’ve ever been micro managed you’ll know that it feels horrible. You feel like you’re not trusted. It can knock your confidence and make you feel constantly on edge. No one does their best work in a constant state of edginess.

Always working – feeling like we have to be at our desk all the time to show we’re working. Fearing that if we’re not perceived to be working really hard that we’ll be at the top of the list when it comes to redundancies.

A friend who works in people development was telling me about an email they sent to all employees to tackle the problem that many people were feeling. Employees felt that they had to work all the hours. Their email highlighted that working hours were 9-5 Monday to Friday and there was no requirement for people to be working weekends. It highlighted email etiquette of not sending emails out of hours and if you did receive an out of hours email not feeling the need to respond. They forgot themselves and sent the email on a Saturday night.

Rising stress and anxiety – many people find working from home isolating and stressful. When we’re feeling stressed out or anxious we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. We can’t think straight. It’s often described as a feeling of ‘brain fog’ which leaves us incapable of focusing on any one thing for long.

How to overcome fears and have a happier life when working remotely

Trust your people that when working remotely that they’re doing their best. If you don’t trust your people – the problem isn’t that you’re all working remotely, the problem is lack of trust.

Everyone is different – in terms of what support they need when working from home and when they do their best work. Have an individual chat with each person in your team to understand what they need from you to work from home successfully.

Give permission to not have to be at a desk from 9am – 5pm. Especially right now in the UK with less hours of daylight. Is there a reason not to work early in the morning, have a chunk of time off in the day in the daylight and finish up later in the afternoon or evening? As long as the work is done does it matter when or, on the topic of micro management, how?

Emails – if people are working flexible hours it might not be about not sending emails outside of core hours but more around communication and expectations. For example, if you choose to work in the morning, take the afternoon off and work again in the evening you’ll likely be sending emails after 5pm. It’s more about letting people know that you don’t expect a reply until they are working again.

It’s not just about work – allow time for those casual chats that build relationships. For example, allow some time at the beginning of a meeting for informal chats, or build in travel time to Zoom meetings to allow for human conversations.

Lead by example – model the behaviour you want to see in your team. Help people find heir way. Remember everyone is likely to struggle at some point when working from home. Be kind, look for signs of stress (like if someone says they have ‘brain fog’) and help if you can.

If managing the current uncertainty is something you’re grappling with, join me and Caroline Doran, founder at Deliver Grow for a webinar on Thursday 26 November. We’ll be discussing practical tips to help you manage uncertainty – and it’s also your opportunity to ask your specific questions. Here’s the link to sign up. Places are limited so do sign up today.

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 Tuesday 9 February 2021 (9.30 am – 4 pm 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.

Resilience and creativity workshop

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 Resilience and Creativity 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!

 

7 tips to gain confidence and boost your self esteem

Have you ever been making great progress only to get stuck and find your confidence disappears? Or perhaps you’ve achieved a big success that’s been quickly followed by a crash of confidence? Or maybe your confidence just evaporates away slowly over time?

Regardless of how robust we might appear on the outside, we are all vulnerable. We can be especially vulnerable when there is uncertainty.

Our confidence can easily be knocked by a passing comment from a friend or colleague. Or when we’re working hard to deliver a project quickly or make a change happen and are faced with blockers and negativity. I’ve also known confidence to disappear for no apparent reason. That’s why knowing practical tips for how to gain confidence is a crucial skill.

Then there’s the critical voice in your head that tells you ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘you’re going to get found out’. The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent and more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know, and stop pushing forward and getting things done fast because it feels safer to stand still. Only when you stand still does the nagging voice stop chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem.

It turns out that the little nagging voice is a thing. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. It’s a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists, Pauline Clance, and Suzanne Imes. It describes the psychological phenomenon which is characterized by intense feelings of not being good enough, negativity, being a fraud and that you are going to get found out – even though all the evidence suggests otherwise.

Gaining your confidence back once the little nagging voice takes hold is hard. I see it like this;

Every day, you have a bucket of confidence. Every time you get push back from someone, every time you get a negative comment, or even a disparaging look from the right person, a little bit of your confidence leaks away.

To gain your confidence and increase your self-esteem, you have to put habits in place to keep your confidence bucket full. Every day. I don’t believe that some people have confidence and others don’t. It’s simply that successful people are more accomplished at managing their feelings of self-doubt and silencing that little internal voice before it has a chance to jeopardise them.

‘If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’ Vincent Van Gogh

Gaining confidence is about keeping your bucket topped up on a daily basis. Here are 7 tips to gain confidence and really boost your self-esteem:

  1. Log your achievements

Get yourself a physical notebook or create an online file and log your achievements. Log them all, especially the small ones because they add up.

Keep the good feedback you receive from other people; a thank you from a friend, the well done – good job email from a manager, or the time your colleagues went the extra mile for you.

Write them down. Writing them down helps you to acknowledge them, which makes you feel good.

In addition, seeing your achievements written down, helps you realise how far you’ve come, the positive impact you have every day and how much you’ve achieved overall. Instead of your ‘to do’ list – it’s your ‘I did it!’ or ‘ta da!’ list.

  1. Call out your Imposter Syndrome

It’s actually rather common. 70% of people have had feelings of being inadequate and getting found out at one time or another.

When that little nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough and anything good that happens to you is luck – call it out. For example, acknowledge that it’s happening and disconnect that annoying voice from the real you and tell it to shut up.

Your task is to find your own way to change the negative story that your inner critic is telling you. Look for evidence to prove what your inner critic is saying is wrong. For example, if you think that you’re a failure, ask yourself, ‘What evidence is there to support the thought that I’m a failure?’ and ‘What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I’m a failure?’

  1. Become a mentor

Being a mentor isn’t just for very senior and experienced people, there’s always someone that you can help.

Helping someone else can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll also realise how much value you can bring to others which in turn can help you to gain confidence.

Many industries have some form of mentor programme or scheme. If yours doesn’t, why not just go for it and put yourself out there? For example, you could post on your intranet or on LinkedIn that you are looking to mentor someone.

  1. Accept compliments

If someone says to you, ‘great job,’ or ‘you look wonderful’ or ‘well done excellent event,’ do you say ‘thank you’ and feel good or do you shy away and give someone else credit?

If you shy away from compliments, then stop. Own it and feel good about it. Next time someone pays you a compliment, smile, say thank you and own the good feeling that goes with that acceptance. (And note it in your achievements log!)

  1. Look after yourself

Looking after yourself helps you gain confidence. It’s fundamental to success. Make sure you get more than enough sleep, do regular exercise and eat healthy food. Make it a habit.

If you feel good, you gain confidence, which inspires you to look after yourself and you create a positive cycle.

  1. Be kind and generous

Being kind and generous to others makes us feel good; and feeling good helps us to gain confidence.

Linked to this, focus on being grateful for what you have and what has gone well that day. I’d suggest that you start by writing down the things you are grateful for every day and make a deliberate effort to be kind and generous to others at every opportunity. And again, over time this becomes a habit.

  1. Be prepared

The more you practice, the more successful you get. Funny isn’t it?

Gaining confidence is borne out of practice. Be prepared, practice the presentation, read the meeting minutes, research the person you are meeting.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the practice required to be the master of your skill being 10,000 hours. So start putting the hours in and you will gain confidence.

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.’ Dale Carnegie

And finally, conquer the knowing-doing gap. You’ve now got a stack of practical tactics to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem. Every action you take will add up but it starts with you.

If you want to gain success, take action today.

If your confidence could do with a boost – check out my training webinar and workbook that gives you more tips and tools for you to work on your own confidence. For more information and buy the training go here.