Don’t let procrastination stop you

Dont let procrastination stop you practical tips in text. With a STOP sign. (c) inspiration365 ltd

Procrastination comes with a STOP sign

As promised, practical tips so that procrastination doesn’t stop you. Because you’ve got something important to do this weekend (or on Monday) and you’ve been putting it off. It could be tidying up the look of your WordPress blog (and figuring out your personal brand – there’s a thought).  Alternatively it could saying what you really need to your boss (OK, perhaps a little translation may be required there).

Where do you start?

To help you select which technique is most likely to work for you, figure out when you procrastinate. When does procrastination set in, is it

  • At the start: Do you find it hard to get started?
  • When you’re mid-way: Perhaps you are someone who’s enthusiastic at the beginning but struggles to keep going? Or do you get so absorbed in stage one that stage two gets put off?
  • At the finishing stage: Maybe you’ve done 95% of the work but spend ages revising what you’ve done to the extent that it gets emailed late or rarely gets finished?

Working out when you procrastinate like this only takes a few minutes to do. I know it’s not the most fun thing to do so try it on your commute home and get it over and done with.

Getting the important things done

Let’s get straight to it. Here are 3 tips:

Procrastinate: You did read it right. I’m recommending that for some of you who have difficulty starting: procrastinate. The chances are that you have so many pulls on your time that you’ll have to procrastinate sometime. Of course, it’s what you decide to procrastinate on that makes the difference. Start practising on low-value activities e.g. instead of watching a TV programme tonight, stick it on record for watching later, and use that time for something you’ve been putting off. Look at your work to-do list and select at least one activity to delay until a more important goal is achieved. Brian Tracy’s “Eat that frog” book includes a very similar tip. It’s called “practice creative procrastination” and it’s “one of the most effective of all personal performance techniques”.

Enlist some supporters: Change is hard due to the very fact that we’re surrounded by others. If the people close to you don’t know what you’re trying to do, they can inadvertently derail your efforts by distracting you when you’re mid-way. So get the buy-in of family, friends and colleagues. Go one step further and enlist some of them as your “cheerleaders”. So if you get half-way through a project and grind to a stop, your supporters can cheer you on. And yes, there are apps in case you want someone – that someone being someone who doesn’t know you – to motivate you or make you pay a small financial penalty if you miss your target.

Change how you look at things: If you’re stuck at the almost finished stage, then experiment with how you look at things. Take a different perspective. When it comes to a piece of work that you’re procrastinating on, how do you view it? Is that work you’ve produced good enough or is it far from perfect? Experiment with how you look at things. Ask a different question: could this be someone’s perfect? Find out. If (and if said with emphasis) someone says it needs some more work, you now know what they’re looking for and can fine tune any revisions as opposed to assuming. And who knows, they may even like it first time round.

Now what?

Take down that stop sign. Get unstuck. Allocate time to your career next steps. Tidy up your social media profiles (and perhaps read my WordPress posts “Personal Brand: Don’t get blind-sided” or “Building your online presence“). Do whatever it is you need to do.

If you’d like to know why we do the things we do. Or in this case, why we don’t do them. Then read my earlier post – “Why is procrastination stopping you?”. I know, I missed April’s post so here are two in May!

And let me know your thoughts on this post by clicking “like”. Feel free to share this post too. Thanks and have a grand evening!

(c) inspiration365 Ltd. May 2015. www.inspiration365.org.uk

 

Why is procrastination stopping you?

Why is procrastination stopping you in text with a STOP sign (c) inspiration365 Ltd

Procrastination…

It’s been a while. I know. And to make up for it this Friday, here’s a double dose of procrastination.

You know the one. There’s something important on your to-do list and it’s been there a while. It could be writing that next WordPress blog  which – even though you’ve spent much time thinking about it – you keep putting off. And put off again. And again.  On the other hand, procrastination could be delaying one of your team members from giving you his/her work. Of course, there may be many reasons for that latter one but don’t overlook an element of procrastination; it’s indirectly stopping you from achieving.

Some of us like to know why we do the things we do. Or in this case, why we don’t do them. If this is you, then read on. If not, then feel free to jump to my next post – Don’t let procrastination stop you: practical tips. It’ll follow swiftly on the back of this one. Just in time for your commute home. Returning to the why…

Covering off the basics

Let’s look at the basics first. Do you have the skills to do what you need to? The understanding of what’s required?

If you’ve answered no, then find out – there’s always Google search (or Safari if you prefer), your friends, family, colleagues, plus some great WordPress blogs to tap into.

Too busy to do that? Swamped with other things to do? Procrastinators can be stuck doing lots of stuff too. It’s just that we keep putting off the important stuff even when it seems obvious what to do. So the chances are that something else is going on.

Now, you might have all the right skills and the understanding too yet you’re also stuck avoiding that thing you’ve been procrastinating about. Not doing it. For you it’s not about being organised (or “time management”), something else is getting in the way.

I’ve a feeling…

OK, possible reasons for procrastination are often complicated with many factors interlinking. There are many whys. Here, let’s focus on feelings which, arguably, underpin much procrastination.

For some of us, there’s a positive rush gained from leaving things to the last minute. This makes us feel good. By avoiding activities which we associate with “negative” feelings, we engage in enjoyable activities instead of the task we’re procrastinating about and these activities make us feel happy. And so, for us, procrastination seemingly brings short-term benefits.

Yet things do go wrong at the last minute particularly if we habitually leave things to the end. Marshall Goldsmith in his new book “Triggers” argues that believing “I won’t get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur” triggers “unrealistic expectations”.  Goldsmith also talks about there being many things which have a low probability of occurring, but there’s a high chance that one of those low probability events will occur. Yep, two of those happened to me this week.

When things go wrong this can make us feel anxious about not being good enough. Or we may feel resentful that someone else is making us work on this project. For some of us, even when we’re doing enjoyable things, we know we’re procrastinating. And that brings on feelings that we may not like such as guilt that we’re not trying hard or shame that we’re often letting people down. Feeling anxiety, resentment, guilt and/or shame are states that we usually want to avoid, so we avoid the thing that makes us feel “urgh” – and procrastinate (and potentially get into a cycle of procrastination).

I get some of the why, now tell me what to do

As a professional coach and mentor, I’m not going to tell you what to do. That said, I can suggest a few tips which have helped those who’ve had coaching and mentoring. They’re practical and fast-acting for many. Just see my next post…

Before you do let me know  if you “like” this post. Feel free to share it too. Thanks and have a grand weekend!

(c) inspiration365 Ltd. May 2015. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Striving for authenticity. It’s complicated…

Hand print with text striving for authenticity. It's complicated. (c) inspiration365 Ltd

Authenticity many of us want it, but how easy is it to achieve…?

Authenticity and being authentic. In other words being genuine, indeed, being ourselves. There’s realness to what we say and do at work, at home, at play. We link it with honesty, believability and trust. It is an appealing concept and one which is much valued. And it’s a great topic to share with you here on WordPress. Authentic leadership, authentic communications, the list does go on and I’d probably say yes to all of them. You’d also think it’d be easy to do – just be you. And yet…

Positive illusions and vital lies

Ah, remember that time when you didn’t quite say everything that was on your mind to keep the peace. Or that slight overstatement of success at work. These are our positive illusions (as Taylor and Brown would call them) and our vital lies (Daniel Goleman wrote a book about these). Oh our little self-deceptions (there’s no getting away from saying it as it is). And, deception is a word which is far flung from that of authenticity. Sometimes we know when we’re telling vital lies or sharing positive illusions. Yet many go unnoticed. Well, OK, we may notice that slight niggle in our gut (as Steven Pinker points out). And, yes, there are coaching and mentoring conversations which may help here.

So if many of us are striving for authenticity, let’s just stop these positive illusions and vital lies. Yes?! Ah, it’s complicated…

Positive illusions and vital lies have their advantages. Like protectively reducing the effect of negative information on our self-esteem. Overestimating your good traits may be advantageous in the short-term. Remember those first 90 days in a new job?! Of course, positive illusions and vital lies have their disadvantages too; particularly when they become maladaptive habits. That said the occasional dusting of positive illusions and vital lies can still be useful. So where does this leave us when striving for authenticity?

It gets more complicated

Let’s look at why striving for authenticity is complicated from a different perspective. Remember a time when you headed-up a new project and you had a good idea of what was needed but there were aspects you really weren’t sure of. Sharing that the future is uncertain and this feels both scary and exciting may work for some on your new team, but for not those looking to you as someone who should know what they’re doing. Of course, not sharing can make us feel somewhat fake. Not honest. And then there’s cultural diversity and social norms which can make us think again when it comes to sharing what’s on our minds. It’s getting more complicated. And I’m not the only one saying this.

Take INSEAD Professor Ibarra’s piece on “The Authenticity Paradox” in January’s Harvard Business Review. She argues that too rigid a definition of authenticity can work against us. For example, you can “lose credibility and effectiveness as a leader if you disclose everything you think and feel, especially when you are unproven”. As one lady shared in Ibarra’s article “being authentic doesn’t mean that you can be held up to the light and people can see right through you”. Is she still being authentic by saying that? I’d say yes.

So what do we do now?

Recognise that striving for authenticity is complex for starters. So when we find it difficult – “performing” in an interview or working out what’s the “right” to thing to say for audience engagement – we can give ourselves a break. There’s a reflective analytical piece like working out where some of our positive illusions lie and what authenticity means for us in practice. Maybe our authentic self is one that can adapt to differing situations and remain true? We can also use direct experience to inform our thinking. I’m an advocate of action learning. We may no longer need some of our positive illusions or vital lies in order to succeed. We can experiment with our ways of working to help us work out what is our own authentic style.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.  Let me know if you like this post…

(c) inspiration365 Ltd. March 2015. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year in text and drawing of a sheep

Wishing you a Happy Chinese New Year 2015!

Yes, keeping it short and sweet today. And in case you’re wondering, my next blog post will be all about action…

(c) inspiration365 Ltd. February 2015. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Is the grass greener career-wise?

Text 'is the grass greener career-wise?' in front of green grass and a brown fence (c) inspiration365Ltd Dec. 2014

Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence, career-wise?

In the midst of the holiday season, this question is knocking loudly at your door – that gate-crasher to your party. Do you open the door and find out what all the noise is about? Is it better for you, and your career, if you did something else? Why, oh why, does this question keep niggling you? Let’s say that I’ve got your attention. [And I appreciate that it’s been a while since my last WordPress blog. Apologies for that – I got caught up in my volunteer writing and editing activities. Plus full disclosure, this is an adapted shorter blog post of one I posted recently on LinkedIn]. So what am I going to say that’s going to help you re: is the grass greener career-wise?

First, it’s not about me telling you the answer. Now you may be saying: hey, wait a minute. Yet, deep down – on whatever level you wish to describe it – you also know it’s about you figuring out the answer for yourself. So what now?

That unsettling feeling

At the moment, you sense that the grass could be greener career-wise. That’s how you perceive it. Regardless of what has prompted the ‘is the grass greener’ question, it’s making you a bit unsettled. Disconcerted. Maybe that unsettling feeling is telling you something useful: during these Christmas and New Year holidays, you’re going to sit down and really find out whether the grass is greener career-wise.

Stuck doing nothing

But you’re stuck. You know something’s amiss and regardless of your best intentions, you’re not doing much about your career next steps. Let’s look at this a little more closely.

What are you doing instead? And what are you not doing?

So perhaps you’re veg’ing on the sofa. Maybe, you’re not asking people to help you. Rather than figuring out what’s out there career-wise, it’s possible that you’re motivated by something else. Are you really stuck doing nothing…?

Why are you staying stuck?

Now there’s a big question. Something is holding you back from actually finding out whether the grass is greener. So my next question to you is:

What else is important to you career-wise?

Potentially it’s that sense of certainty from doing what you know. OK it may not feel like that all the time, but in the main, you know what’s expected of you. A new job? That’s a big learning curve and there’s the uncertainty of probation. What’s really competing with you finding out whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, career-wise? Sometimes looking at this from different perspectives may help identify what’s pulling you in one direction and then the next.

Forming a career next step

At this stage, it may be useful for us to explore the “what-ifs”. Noting that this is one of many potential directions for us to go.

What…If you’re not seen to know what you’re doing in a job then you’re no longer considered the star performer. If you go for something different, you’ll need to spend time getting up to speed and that’ll take you away from your favoured lifestyle. If you start looking, you might want to dramatically change your career and that brings a whole load of new issues and dilemmas. And, so you might continue. Then what? Perhaps consider how you might perceive these “what-ifs” from different viewpoints.

Is the grass greener career-wise? I don’t know. And nor do you. Perhaps, this holiday season, it’s time to take that first career next step and find out…

Merry Christmas 2014 and Happy New Year 2015

Text 'Merry Christmas + Happy New Year!' with a Christmas tree and clock showing midnight (c) inspiration365Ltd Dec. 2014

(c) inspiration365 Ltd. December 2014. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Personal brand…don’t get blind-sided

Text "Personal Brand" on left side with a brick wall on right side with text "don't get blind-sided" Copyright inspiration365 Ltd

Going for short and sweet today! So a few words here on WordPress about Personal Branding with a link to my LinkedIn post on the subject. Yes, I’m doing that cross-platform ‘thing’ and, yes, I’m being open about it.

When it comes to our personal brand, we’re online in many places. For example, I’m on WordPress, I’m also @fionacoach on Twitter plus I’m on LinkedIn (Fiona Williams’ LinkedIn Profile). LinkedIn offered me the opportunity to blog and so I did. So which is the better site to use: WordPress or LinkedIn? That one I’ll leave to you. It’s your choice. And before you say: what, another thing on my to do list or how could you move away from WordPress? or but which one is better? – I say, there’s a time to experiment. You’ll know when. That trying out something different when you’re not sure (because there is no right answer here). For me, that time to experiement is now and here’s my LinkedIn post on personal brand…don’t get blind-sided. Enjoy!

© inspiration365 Ltd. October 2014. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Building your online presence

Building your online presence in text on a tablet's screen. Copyright inspiration365 Ltd

Many people have been asking me: what is personal branding? How do I build my online presence? And, they are joining WordPress, Twitter and other social media sites to build their online presence. There’s a touch of minor panic for some, “I should be doing more, better” uttered by a few and a “huh?!” from others. I’m not sure which of these seems like you but let’s figure some of this out together.

What is an online presence? What is personal branding?

You already have an online presence because there’s an online trail which leads back to you. That presence could also be called your reputation or identity. It is how others see you and it’s made up of your social media sites, your comment on an online noticeboard, your Just Giving page and your membership of a Chartered body. Tapping into some of my Master’s degree research, it’s also about how you want other people to perceive you and how you want to influence other people online or face-to-face. This is where the personal branding bit comes in. It’s how you want to package yourself to others. This may be driven by you wanting to change careers or get promoted, to build your business, or part of being a better manager and leader.

Going for an authentic voice or one that’s marketed

We spend much time trying to meet other people’s expectations or our own expectations of who we should be. And, end-up feeling squeezed by the pressures of trying hard, aiming for perfect or being liked. Accepting yourself for who you are is a great move. On the other hand, there’s a drive to be smarter in what we do and how we present ourselves so that we get that promotion, new job or new business. The word “marketed”, in this paragraph’s header, may leave you wanting to run a mile in the opposite direction. I did. Okay, that was many years ago but still. Maybe it has something to do with the word itself and using it on ourselves.

Dorie Clark, in “A campaign strategy for your career” (2012 Harvard Business Review), argued that we may need to re-think our approach. When you say “Shouldn’t hard work speak for itself?” she says “sadly, it just doesn’t work that way” and whilst it might feel calculating, it’s about “taking small but important steps to better position yourself for a winning future”.

My take is to stick with the authentic you – recognising that working out ‘what is the authentic you?’ may be easier said than done (and yes, the topic crops up coaching and mentoring conversations). But also be more strategic in what that online trail is telling everyone. And make sure that other people perceive the authentic you.

Starting off with an online inventory

Here’s the strategic bit. Do an online audit. Search for yourself using Google by putting your name in quotes i.e. “Fiona Williams”. Also, if you have one, conduct an intranet search too. Look at all the pages – yes, keep going to that 15th search page. Repeat with Bing and Safari (remember many people use iPhones and iPads) and also search for your nicknames and misspellings of your name. What do the search terms bring-up? If they’re relevant to you today then that’s great. If not then un-tag that photo of you, close that account and ask the group manager to delete an old archive. There’s much more to building your online brand, yes, but you’re taking that important first step. Let me know how you get on…

© inspiration365 Ltd. September 2014. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Let’s talk influence

Two speech bubbles with lets talk influence withinLet’s talk influence. So getting someone to do or think something different. To create change. In a nice way – in other words, so the other person benefits. That latter part is vital. In this post, I’m focusing on how we can learn to be more influential in terms of persuading people (and also yourself) to get things done. At the end of the month, I’ll be sharing on influence and building your online presence.

Influence by Cialdini

This is one of those books that I recommend to everyone in business (and my definition of business includes the private, public and charity / social enterprise sectors). Cialdini’s Influence has been around for a while but its gems hold true. I came across it years ago when leading large change projects, again when doing my MBA, and lately as a professional coach and mentor. I’ll share with you Cialdini’s 6 principles but not today. For today, we’re going to fast forward to Cialdini’s new book for 2014 “The small Big” which is co-authored with Steve Martin and Noah Goldstein. And look at one change you can make right now to be more influential.

One Small BIG change to help get things done

Based on Koo and Fishbach’s small-area hypothesis and research, “The small Big” authors suggest that in the early stages of a task, we turn everyone’s attention to “the small amount of progress that has already been made rather than on the larger amount that remains”. What does that mean? Well, let’s talk examples. Say you’re talking performance targets with your team, how about letting them know: in just two weeks, you’ve achieved 18% of your target. Sounds better than: well done, keep going only 82% to go. Then later on, switch their attention to the smaller amount of effort remaining. For example by saying: just 14% to go. It’s such a small change in communication that it’s probably worth a go (yes?!). By the way, using specifics rather than generalisations add weight to what you’re saying.

Helping yourself too

This focus on the small numbers can be a good way to help yourself too. So if you’ve set yourself a goal – revising your CV, producing that piece of work you know your boss wants, writing your next blog – then ask yourself what have you achieved in a short space of time. Based on what clients say in coaching, we often to fail to appreciate have far we’ve come and instead focus on the there’s so much to do which immediately seems to result in that stomach tightening feeling.

In my view, framing something differently or more specifically changing the way we communicate numbers can shift our perception about what needs to be done. It can also turn our attention to the task at hand. And if you’re looking to increase your influence, this shift may also persuade and motivate your team in the direction you (and they) ultimately desire too. Let me know how you get on…

© inspiration365 Ltd. September 2014. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Invictus games + what next after injury

Invictus games + what next after injury in text on a green games pitchIn a month’s time, the Invictus Games take place in London. Another great sporting event to capture our imagination and fuel our excitement. What’s special about these games is that they highlight the positives and hard work when it comes to life after injury. When life’s a bit more complicated due to change in health and/or disability. Ok so – and here the so has a long “o” – what?

Invictus Games

First, they’re a great idea. And yes, I’ll be tuning in come September. By the way, there are still tickets available for some of the events. And yes, these games for injured and wounded military have got strong backing including HRH Prince Harry and my former employer, the Ministry of Defence (in case you’re wondering I was a civil servant and worked alongside those from the RAF, Navy and Army). The Invictus Games are a chance to enjoy some great sport. But there’s more…

What next after injury

This one is the tough one. Working out career next steps after life in the military is difficult enough. And yes, coaching and mentoring helps when it comes to figuring out “what do I want to do in my career?” and then translating military-speak into transferable skills which make sense to recruiters as well as interviewers. But when you add injury and disability too, that’s hard. You want to remain independent. Still be good at something whilst recognising that life needs to change. To avoid getting stuck in all the so-called negative emotions which are, in my view, often part of the journey (or whatever metaphor you’d like to use).  The Invictus Games are there for all of us. To show the positives but without saying it’s easy.

When life’s a bit more complicated

Yes, life’s a bit more complicated when there’s been a change in health and/or disability. And many employers want to retain top talent and improve their organisation’s diversity; the business case for diversity is certainly strong. And it can be hard too. For you. It’s great when people say develop your online presence. Your personal brand. But “who am I?” is one of those coaching and mentoring questions which can go in so many different directions. I’m saying this as a professional coach and mentor as well as someone who’s experienced changes in health too.

It’s also complicated if you’re someone who just wants to help. You see someone who has additional needs but also is “strong” is so many areas. Alternatively you might be surprised that someone has additional needs because “they hide it so well” – a phrase that many have shared with me. From individuals and teams to employers and wider society, we’re all trying to work it out; and if you’re interested in further reading, a good place to start is Tom Shakespeare’s writings. We can hold the good and the not-so-good aspects together at the same time. It’s not easy but it is possible…

Enjoy the games and let me know your comments!

© inspiration365 Ltd. August 2014. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Management take-aways from the Sunday papers

Leadership agility and interim management in text next to drawing of a Sunday paper

A couple of opinion-based articles caught my attention in the weekend papers. Those papers being The Sunday Times’ Appointments section. Thought the management trends they highlighted – leadership agility and interim management – might be of interest to you too. So here are take-aways from the Sunday papers…

Leadership Agility

Apparently it’s the in thing now. Emotional intelligence was so last year, I gather. Management is subject to trends and, whilst there’s no surprise there, the post was a useful reminder to be aware of the latest thinking. That said, it was difficult to tell from the article where that thinking came from. Hmmm, back to that question on what makes up quality information and expertise (see my earlier July blog post on information overload).

So what is hot? I would agree with leadership agility being in. Interestingly, leadership derailment was also mentioned. Engagement is also crucial. Yep, I’m bang on trend with advocating that one. I was surprised that the balanced scorecard was on the wane. OK, Kaplan and Norton did introduce it in the 90s. Instead, the emphasis is all about team working.

Wondering how this knowledge might be useful to us? Well, from a career perspective, it’s about being able to market yourself appropriately. Also, some interviewers like their thinking to be challenged by you and find out whether personal development is something you’re intrinsically motivated to do. Additionally, it’s about having matching conversations in business. There’s no point in talking leadership agility, if the other person is thinking resilience or toughing it out…

Interim management

On to our next topic which is interim managers. And, I’ll be brief. They are seemingly in demand and, in this instance, the Interim Management Association was referenced. If you’re not familiar with interim managers (and I was one), they tend to be employed for a short time and are expected to hit the ground running – no time for settling into the job here. They come with subject matter expertise and often have senior management experience to draw upon.

So perhaps being an interim manager could be a career option for you?  Your next role or one later in your career. Alternatively next time you’re looking to develop or take on a new project, hiring an interim team maybe worth investigating?

All the best for the week ahead!

© inspiration365 Ltd. July 2014. www.inspiration365.org.uk

Fiona Williams ǀ coach, mentor ǀ inspiration365 Ltd ǀ career, work, business

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