If you are like most leaders, you've been here:
You have a precious break in the day, so you look at your endless to-do list.
All tasks seem important, but you scan the list, looking for the priority items you can knock off in a few minutes. As you glance at each item, you make a mental note:
Your to-do list is like an emotional roller coaster
In the time it takes to scan down the list, your emotions move from overwhelmed to anxious, then annoyed and doubtful, ending with discouraged.
Pushing the to-do list aside, you begin scrolling through your inbox without realizing you've avoided doing anything on the list and, as a result, get further behind and more disheartened 😩
I get it. I've been there many, many times too! In fact, if you are like most leaders, you have a lengthy to-do list that haunts you into the wee hours of the morning and, honestly, will never get done.
But why is it that we will never get through our to-do list?
💥The reason your to-do list will never get done is twofold
REASON # 1
First, it's a disorganized list that is more of a holding place than a completion place.
REASON # 2
Second, we look at the list as items that need time to be completed, and we blame lack of time as the enemy 😡 ⏰
It's way more complicated than just not enough time.
For example, look at your to-do list and consider:
Without taking all of that into consideration, our to-do list becomes an impossible challenge, and time becomes the enemy. But time is getting a bad rap. ❌ It's not ⏳ time's fault.
The time available to complete tasks is only one small factor in managing our to-do list. There are other things to consider. Below are three steps to help you manage your to-do list with much greater success👇🏻
QUESTION: How do I get done, what matters on my to-do list?
ANSWER: You create order and awareness.
1) First, start by prioritizing your to-do list into some semblance of order
That way, your to-do list can become a tool working for you instead of a threat against you.
2) Next, let go of inappropriate expectations of your to-do list
You change expectations of your to-do list by shifting your mindset from believing your to-do list is a list of things that need doing to a holding place for projects and tasks.
3) Finally, move a few key items to each day's agenda, plan or priorities
When you only have three things to get done each day, you will check them off with greater speed and satisfaction.
But we are still overlooking something
That covers the tactical side of getting through your to-do list. But there is something bigger that needs addressing.
🐘 The elephant in the room is the emotions you felt when you scanned the list.
Your emotions play a big role in productivity
Many of us are unaware of our feelings, let alone how our emotions affect our productivity. We can choose our responses better by slowing down and getting a better awareness of what we are experiencing and how our emotions distract us from getting done what matters most.
If you want more help with this, read this next: Why Your Emotions Are Sabotaging Your Productivity
If you've been meaning to
NOW is the time to plan HOW you will do that 👆🏻 growth.
As a woman leading in the nonprofit sector, I know your days are filled with endless meetings, tight deadlines, and a never-ending to-do list. I've been there, and I know it's not always easy to stay motivated and positive when facing these challenges.
When I get behind, I get irritable 😤 Any interruptions will annoy the crap out of me. The thing is, not only do I get short with others, but I also beat myself up.
The impact of less-than-productive days
You, too, likely feel irritated on less-than-productive days. You also know the consequences of how an unproductive day can spill into your evening. Being short with your staff is certainly not optimal, but a cutting remark with your child can leave you feeling inept in the parenting department.
I'd had enough of it!
This all-too-familiar cycle was the norm for me for years. The more determined I got in the last few years to do meaningful work, the more necessary it became to be productive. Changing a few things has made an incredible difference for me. I still have less productive times, but they are fewer and farther between. I end most weeks ticking everything off of my weekly list.
When you decide it's time to be more productive...this ↓
✅ Being more productive will help you take that weekly and daily to-do list and get them done. That way, you can shut off at the end of the day, knowing you completed what was needed.
✅ Being productive at work frees up your mind and energy to shift into the rest of your life. Feeling upbeat when you come home at the end of your workday results in a much more enjoyable evening with your loved ones!
Let's dive into the three powerful productivity hacks that enhance efficiency and boost mood👇🏻
3 Productivity Hacks for Leaders
that are Guaranteed to Boost Your Mood
1 - Prioritize Self-Care
As a dedicated nonprofit leader, it's natural to put others before yourself.
However, taking care of your well-being is essential for maintaining a positive mindset and achieving productivity because:
👉🏻 It's hard to focus when you are hangry.
👉🏻 It will take you way longer to create the document when you haven't left your desk for 3 hours straight.
👉🏻 You'll find burnout knocking at your door if you don't take proper care of yourself.
If you neglect self-care, you're more likely to be unproductive, experience heightened stress levels, and eventually face burnout, just like my client Nancy.
🙋🏻♀️ Nancy was neglecting her physical and mental well-being, feeling exhausted, and struggling to be productive.
Nancy started with wanting to carve out time each day for self-care activities that rejuvenate her, like a morning meditation or an evening walk with the dogs, but she didn't always have the motivation to do that. Many of my clients have high aspirations like this but struggle to get there. To get moving in the right direction, I encourage them, like I encouraged Nancy, to start small and work to add micro-moments of wellness throughout her day.
WHAT WORKED FOR NANCY
Nancy began working through the course Wellness AT Work and learned how to add micro-moments of wellness into her work day. She immediately found she was feeling healthier and more productive!
👉🏻 DO THIS: Add micro-moments of wellness into your day
Think about what you can do in one minute or less:
Learn more about the Wellness AT Work COURSE
2 - Master Time Management
As a nonprofit leader, learning effective time management is a game-changer. Learning to manage your energy and priorities helps you have increased productivity and allows you to maintain a positive outlook.
Here are the basics:
✔️ Take time to plan your week, determining the top projects and tasks needing to be done.
✔️ Break your projects into tasks which makes them more manageable.
✔️ Each day, identify your top priorities for the day
✔️ Create time blocks in your calendar to work on allocating tasks
✔️ Embrace technology tools such as task management apps, calendars, and reminders to stay organized and on track.
By maximizing your time and staying focused, you'll accomplish more while reducing stress, undoubtedly boosting your mood.
However, time management strategies alone won't be the simple answer.
🤔 You'll also need to manage what's happening in your head when you think about those tasks.
❗️ Just because you put "performance review" on your agenda
doesn't mean you'll eagerly jump into it at the allotted time.
If you are uncomfortable with conflict and know this review will be challenging, you may put it off unconsciously. Seeing it pop up on your list week after week requires you to start looking at the unconscious thoughts getting in the way.
🙋🏼♀️ SASHA'S STORY
Sasha knew that she was struggling with more than time management.
WHAT WORKED FOR SASHA
For example, Sasha kept putting off the annual report. It had been on her list for a month, and now the pressure was on to finish it. As she worked through the exercises...
💡 These two insights helped Sasha add some client stories to the report and ask for help with the software. She then reengaged in the task and completed it on time with a sense of pride rather than frustration.
👉🏻 DO THIS: Master your inner critic
Work through The Emotions of Time Management to help you apply the time management strategies despite your sabotaging thoughts.
Learn more about The Emotions of Time Management COURSE
3 - Make the best use of your productive times
🙋🏼♀️ MY STORY
A few years ago, I took a deep dive into productivity. As an overachiever with high expectations of myself,
🟦 Identify your most productive times
🟦 During peak times, do the projects needing intense focus
What are the things that require a level of diligence and focus?
reading over and digesting a report
WHAT WORKED FOR ME
🟦 Use your willpower wisely
Willpower is the age-old skill of self-control, restraint, strength, and determination. Willpower happens in your head.
🗣️ Our mind chatter tries to get us to avoid pain.
🗣️ That inner dialogue suggests to us, subconsciously, that doing a particular project on our to-do list hurts.
🗣️ Our inner voice says that if we do the task in front of us, it will be painful, hard or troublesome.
So instead, that little gremlin 🗣️ inside suggests we check email again, move to a different project or head to Tik Tok, LinkedIn, or your favourite social media newsfeed.
👉🏻 DO THIS: Learn to manage your willpower
Honestly, learning about willpower helped me the most with productivity. It takes resolve to push past that and get to work, especially agonizing jobs. To stay on task, get done the important work and leave feeling productive at the end of your day, you must activate your willpower. Start by:
✅ Understanding what willpower is and what it isn't
✅ Learning how to stop depleting your willpower unnecessarily.
✅ Learning how to get more willpower quickly when you need it most.
I took what I learned and put it into the course Willpower Essentials: Getting Done What Matters Most
Learn more about the Willpower Essentials COURSE
Remember, boosting your mood and enhancing your efficiency go hand in hand. Prioritize self-care, master time management, and learn to manage your willpower, and you'll find yourself accomplishing more while enjoying the journey.
Here is the thing, as a leader, you can inspire other women leaders in the nonprofit sector with your positive energy that will undoubtedly create a ripple effect within your organization and community. The choice is yours!
You may have noticed that I linked three different courses above. All of them are instantly accessible to you, plus many, many more, when you join The Training Library for $19.97/month.
🤔 How much do you pay for your Prime, Netflix, Google or Apple membership?
Is your growth and development (also your sanity) not worth that much too?
Joining The Training Library gives you the tools to lead and live your best. I hope I'll see you in there soon!
Stop striving for work-life balance. It doesn't exist. Nor should it. Balance is nothing more than society's way of laying guilt on working women.
Cindy was seeing her kids for less than an hour a day
She arrived home and spent only a brief time with them before apologetically tucking them into bed. Each night, she vowed silently to change things. It was the same promise she'd whispered to herself for months. But the work demands were strong.
Cindy tried to make up for it on weekends
Cindy found herself exhausted and with little patience left. Most of what she had for energy, focus and compassion was used up in the day-to-day grind at the office. Cindy craved balance. She wanted to divide her time between work and home and not have them interfere with each other. Yet she could never find a way to do that.
Work-Life Balance doesn't work
That is because there isn't a way. You are not alone if you, like Cindy, have wondered how to juggle everything better to find more harmony in your days.
Women are tugged at constantly
Working women, especially leaders, feel pulled in all directions. It's not just work and kids. You also know you need to pay attention to your health and well-being. Likely you have some community groups that you feel a responsibility to. Your marriage, parents, and renovation projects all scream for their share of your priceless time.
Dividing things equally is impossible
The point is that it is impossible to equally divide your calendar and your energy to each task or area in your life. You can't spend 1.75 hours with your kids, 8 hours at work and…you get the point. There are weeks that you must work more than 40 hours, in fact, a lot more. But, just the same, there are times when your family requires more attention.
How do you find more alignment without the guilt?
The answer has been presented in The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They call it counterbalancing. There are some key things to know about this strategy.
Priorities are the things we need to focus on. Everything else must be put on the back burner when we focus on that priority. This recognizes that we can't answer the phone when working on a report that you ranked at the top of your list. It also means we shouldn't be reading emails at the supper table.
Prioritizing goes deeper than that
In our work days, we chase everyone else's priorities. As a result, often, our own meaningful work never gets done. For example, many indicate relationships are key. Yet, we may plan to talk to an employee for days but have yet to get to that conversation.
Prioritizing isn't about ordering the tasks on our to-do list
It is about looking within and determining why we do our work. Then, it is about looking at the bigger picture and having a vision for how to get there. Another great resource on how to do this is the book Essentialism by Greg McKowen.
Lean way out
Counterbalancing recognizes we can't always walk along a path that is straight. There is no state of being completely balanced. We are constantly in motion. The approach is to sway back and forth. We will need to lean heavily into work some days. Other times life will draw us strongly into it.
Let yourself lean
When you allow yourself to lean in or out fully, you will find more enjoyment and meaning in what you are doing. Imagine being on a beautiful Caribbean holiday and checking your email. That sucks, right? Now imagine being on that same beach, completely shut off from work and simply soaking up the sun. You would find a more gratifying experience.
Stop feeling guilty
The same is true in projects at work. For example, you aren't completely focused on the task if you feel guilty about missing supper. Therefore you won't be doing your best work, and it will take longer.
It takes a bit of getting used to
Keller and Papasan acknowledge it can be bumpy. However, when we put our focused attention on a priority, it means we are going to lean away from other things.
When you put time and attention towards these priorities, naturally, it will take the focus away from other things. This will put things out of balance, which is okay if done for the right amount of time.
Engage in Counterbalancing
The key is for the right amount of time. Leaning way out isn't bad. In addition to a particular work project, your health and your family are priorities. If you stay at the office until 6 pm, it's not the end of the world. Counterbalancing the long day is when you head to the gym after. You further counterbalance when you immerse yourself in reading to your child at bedtime, fully present to him and the story, and leave your cell phone in a different room.
Think of counterbalancing as your umbrella
Tightrope walkers carry something to counterbalance them. They have a weight that pulls them back the other way. Your weight is your other priorities. It might be your health or family. By identifying it as a priority and then giving fully there, too, you will find more of the sway back and forth, just as anyone who appears truly balanced is doing.
When you are out of balance, ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I currently focusing on my priorities or someone else's?
If you are focusing on someone else's, can you stop? Yes, you have a job to do. But are you doing someone else's work because they didn't do it? Are you chasing the stats that you have sent already? Are you solving a problem that staff can solve themselves? Are you having a conversation that might become a non-issue if left alone for a couple of hours? If so, step back, pivot and move toward your priorities.
2) What can I do to counterbalance the effort, time and energy put in here to pull me back toward my other key priorities in life?
We each have an internal bucket that only has so much within it. Everything continually dips out of that bucket. Conversations drain us. Work exhausted us. Chasing appointments, kid's activities and a mile-long to-do list deplete our reserves. What puts back into your bucket? It might be a massage, reading a book, having coffee with a friend or quality time with your family. Do something to put back into your bucket.
Counterbalancing can save your life
Getting good at swaying back and forth will be the trick to being able to "do it all." But you must not get stuck on one side for too long. Know all of your priorities. Acknowledge that your umbrella is there to support you.
Rather than freaking out, you will find a more controlled and comfortable sway back and forth. And while it may look to the naked eye that you are in balance, you will know you just got good at counterbalancing.
Take a moment to write down your top 3 priorities in life and your top 3 priorities at work. Put the list of priorities somewhere that you can see them often. Then, when you are out of balance, look to them to get back on track.
Nonprofit work can be incredibly fulfilling and impactful, but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming, and lead to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Sadly burnout is far too common in the nonprofit sector, where overwork and lack of resources are common challenges.
The problem is many of us continue to work through burnout, either not recognizing it or not feeling we can take a step back to deal with it. That's not ok for you, your team, your clients, or your family, and it's certainly not ok for the nonprofit sector!
It's important to note that burnout is a gradual process and doesn't generally happen overnight. It's essential to pay attention to warning signs and take action before you hit burnout. Robert Cole, an American psychologist, wrote The Call of Service, which discusses the path to burnout.
The first step to prevent burnout is to increase your awareness of what it is and recognize the warning signs of when you might be headed there.
According to Cole, we move from weariness to cynicism. Next comes despair and, following that, bitterness. We then slip into depression before we hit burnout.
I remember the first time I was on antidepressants. It was right before I almost quit my job. I'd hit burnout and had trouble even remembering what I'd once loved about the work. I'd become so embroiled in conflict, toxicity and negativity.
Looking back, I now see that the weariness, cynicism, despair and bitterness were all there before that. I just tuned them out, assumed black humour was part of the job, and every leader is exhausted. I didn't know that those were not the mark of strong leadership. Instead, they were signposts along the way to burnout.
Look at the following stages on Cole's pathway to burnout. Do any of these sound a bit too familiar to your daily experience?
If so, stop and acknowledge that. Just pause and be aware that while this may seem "normal" in our sector, that doesn't make it "right." It's not ok, either. There is another way. It begins with choosing a different path.
I want to insert the original version of the serenity prayer here.
Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.
Notice that the prayer asked for courage first. And that courage was for things that MUST be changed, not things that simply can be changed. I believe we MUST change how we experience leadership in the nonprofit sector. But there is another way, and it will take courage from you, me, and a few other brave souls to start the tides of that change.
When I was aware I was burning out, I went to the doctor, who prescribed antidepressants. That isn't the path for everyone, and I don't know if I'd take that path again now. But it was the best I could do at the time.
I also did several things that boosted my confidence (You can find 4 of those confidence boosters here). The confidence boost helped me return to leadership with my head held high and ready to reengage intentionally and with passion.
It started with awareness, then took courage.
If you are on the path to burnout and want to rekindle your passion for nonprofit work, you might be interested in the 5-day challenge I created to help you rediscover your passion and purpose in your work.
Join the 5-Day Challenge: Conquer your love-hate relationship with your job.
March 20 - 24th
Are you tired of feeling stuck in a job that no longer excites you? Join the upcoming 5-day challenge and shift your mindset to reignite your passion for your nonprofit leadership role.
It's time to shift your mindset and reignite your passion for your job.
How it works:
When you sign up, you'll be invited to join each day to gradually make shifts that will rekindle your passion for your job.
Last week, I came down with a nasty case of the Norovirus and yet...
How can I take time off?
My first thought was: I've just got to get through this, and then I can get to work.
My second thought was: I'll just pretend I'm OK. I won't let anyone know I'm sick.
My third thought was: Did you just think that?
Is that the kind of person I want to be when my body clearly tells me I should not be at my computer? I will pretend I'm OK and not let on that I'm about ready to fall over. Seriously? I can barely walk from room to room, and I can't stay awake for more than an hour, and I'm going to pretend I'm OK?
That realization quickly urged me to clear my day's schedule and let myself be sick! Sometimes it's "easy" to decide that. However, at other times, taking time off because you are sick isn't always such a clear choice.
👉 As leaders, we can't always take a sick day when were are not feeling our best. Sometimes you must work with a headache. Sadly, you can't always stay home when your menstrual cramps are killing you. And if we all took time off when we had the sniffles, work would never get done.
So how do you know when it's OK to take time off and when it's not?
1️⃣ First, you need to pause, stop and perhaps sit down.
2️⃣ Then with intention, ponder your dilemma. You won't make your best decision with unconscious thoughts whirling in your head.
Let's go through some considerations, and I'll provide you with questions you can mull over to help you make a decision you'll feel better about.
🤔 What kind of workplace culture are you creating?
The obvious question is, are you contagious? But we all know that even that won't stop many of us from working. Instead, we'll rationalize it to either I'm working at home, I'll keep my distance, or they've probably already been infected.
But what if you took that question a step further?
Does that change your perspective a wee bit?
What's the impact of your taking time off?
Leaders carry different responsibilities that often have a trickle-down or ripple-up effect. Your work, or lack of it, can impact others. And by work, I don't simply mean returning emails and attending meetings. But more so, it's your decision-making skills, problem-solving abilities, accountability responsibilities and resource delegation roles.
By taking sick time off, you may prevent things from happening, create a bottleneck or further complicate issues. Your absence could mean missed deadlines, loss of funding or risk of failing to meet contractual obligations.
All that is not to make you feel guilty. You already know this. That's why I say it. Worrying about this in the background only creates guilt and anxiety and may cause you to work when you really shouldn't.
So what to do? Again, I'll encourage you to pause. Stop and sit down without your laptop and phone for a few minutes, then ponder. Consider the following questions.
❓ Would my absence cause significant disruption to my team or clients?
❓ Have I ensured my team has the resources and support they need to continue working effectively in my absence, such as clear instructions, updated contact lists, and access to necessary technology?
❓Do I have any important deadlines or projects that could be impacted by taking a day off, and if so, have I made arrangements to mitigate any potential setbacks?
❓ Would my absence create excess workload, pressure or morale issues for my team or organization?
❓ What needs to be reorganized?
You're entitled to sick leave. Taking time off when unwell is not something to feel guilty about. The more intention you put into creating a plan for your absence, the easier it will be to let go and take care of yourself.
🤔 Are you risking burning out if you don't take care of yourself?
As a nonprofit leader, your work is incredibly important, and you're likely passionate about the cause you're working to advance. However, there are times when it's important to take a step back and prioritize your own well-being before it's too late!
What makes it so hard to make a choice to look after me?
If you are feeling unwell and you think taking a day off would help you recover more quickly, it may be worth taking a sick day. Taking care of yourself and getting the rest you need can help prevent your illness from worsening and help you feel better faster.
🤔 What about your family?
When illness hits, it often hits an entire household. So while you need to consider your work responsibilities, you must also consider what's happening at home. Gallup's research has found that members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work. That means when their families need them, they are passionate about being there for their families. You are a better leader when you do.
Ideas for using the questions:
While you probably aren't going to review this entire list every time you get sick, it is a place to come back to on occasion to ensure you are being your best self and, thus, the most positively impactful leader you can be.
As a nonprofit leader, your work is important, but so is your health and well-being. By using this framework to help you decide when to take a sick day and keep these reminders in mind, you'll be better equipped to care for yourself and continue making a difference in the world.
If you want to feel more competent, capable and sure of yourself in your leadership, you need to increase your self-confidence by learning to manage your thoughts.
To bounce back time and time again when the $#!t hits the fan 😩 you need a system that will help you regain your whirling thoughts and, thus, your confidence when you falter. We've been covering that system the last few weeks as you've been learning about pausing, pondering, pivoting and proceeding.
Leaders who can navigate the busy, stressful and difficult times AND come out on top rely on something inside of them. Their inner wisdom 🦉provides strength, insight, and stamina, not just to survive but to thrive.
Successful and confident leaders access that inner wisdom
by consciously tuning in to it.
The problem is we aren't taught this stuff
Unfortunately, many of us are too busy or have never learned how to tune into our inner wisdom. As new leaders, we learned about scheduling shifts, what forms need filling out and when and how to do cover off.
We were not taught what to do when we were uncomfortable addressing something going wrong or how to deal with our emotions during a team meeting when everyone seemed to hate us. And many of us assumed it was something wrong with us. We weren't cut out for leadership, were doing something wrong or alternately blamed it on the crappy staff we had.
❌ None of that was probably true, not completely.
We need to learn how to access our inner wisdom
What may be more accurate ✅ is that we have yet to learn how to communicate effectively as a leader, what to do with the voices in our head that doubt we can handle it or what to do with the anger when a comment at a staff meeting triggers us.
To help us learn that, we need a system to allow us to access our inner wisdom.
☑️ When you are about to enter a tough conversation and want to maintain your composure, your thoughts will help you do that.
☑️ When you struggle to get your work done and feel pulled in many directions, your inner wisdom will help you focus on what matters most when it matters most.
☑️ So you can convince yourself it's ok to walk away from work and find balance with your life.
If you want to learn a system to help you tune into your inner wisdom, something you can use anytime and anywhere, then keep reading 👇🏻
It's time to find your internal compass
Leaders that learn to tune in and manage their thoughts and emotions develop courage, strength and skills to leave effectively and impactfully by accessing their inner wisdom or The Inner Guidance System.
Your Inner Guidance System is your internal navigational structure. Think of your Inner Guidance System as your personal GPS or as a compass 🧭
Know Your Leadership Destination
But where are you going? Leadership is about taking people someplace. It is about moving your organization from here to there. That is your vision or destination. The destination could be something like:
Your destination is about who you are becoming
More than organizational goals, your direction is about becoming the type of leader you want to be.
The difference when you use your Inner Guidance System
👎🏻 Without tuning in, accessing your inner wisdom and using that internal compass to guide you, sadly, you'll be stuck on completing your to-do list, attending meetings and returning emails instead of being your best self while doing all those things.
👍🏻 But when you tune in and access your inner wisdom, using that internal compass to guide you, you'll be your best self 🙌🏻 when you complete your to-do list, attend meetings and return emails.
Follow the steps of your INNER GUIDANCE CYCLE
To access your Inner Guidance SYSTEM, follow the steps of the Inner Guidance CYCLE. The four steps, when repeated again and again, help you to make use of your internal wisdom. The steps of the INNER GUIDANCE CYCLE are as follows:
When you do the steps repeatedly, they provide insights that you need to move in the direction you want.
The Inner Guidance Cycle at work:
To begin getting acquainted with your wise inner self, PAUSE and start paying attention to what is happening inside you.
Consider or PONDER what thoughts and feelings you have about people, challenges or outcomes you experience.
You'll also notice that those thoughts and feelings may be accompanied by certain sensations in your body, for example:
Your thoughts, feelings and sensations are signs of your Inner Guidance System at work. They are clues🕵️ to what is going on and how to regain your composure and become your best self.
Accessing the wisdom inside - An example
By tuning into what's happening, you can shift how your thoughts or perspectives about the situation, how you handle it and how you feel about how you handle it.
👉 For example, perhaps you have a tough conversation coming up.
When you paused and tuned in (pondered), you may have noticed:
But that isn't the end of The Inner Guidance Cycle
The next step is the PIVOT step.
This step is about shifting your perspective. You shift your perspective by getting curious and asking yourself questions. You may ask yourself questions like:
The answers you come up with could be something like:
This new insight helps you move forward or PROCEED
Accessing your inner wisdom via The Inner Guidance Cycle will help you navigate your to-do list and relationships while you manage your emotions and be your best self. To learn more about each step in The Inner Guidance Cycle, dive deeper with this article.
If you are like most leaders, you spend a lot of time running. We go from one meeting to the next with barely any breaks! As a result, we never have time to go to the bathroom, eat our lunch or let everything catch up with us.
The problem is that it is hard to do the work of great leadership when
you don't have time to PAUSE, slow down and tune in.
Effective leaders need time to think, ponder and tune in. However, many resist pausing, stopping, or taking a break despite being overloaded, overworked and overwhelmed.
Most of us say it's because we don't have time to take a break. Yet, pausing is essential to developing confidence and becoming a stronger leader. You can't wait for time to pause. You need to make time for it!
Learn to access your Inner Guidance System
In this series of blogs, I'm introducing you to the steps in the Inner Guidance Cycle, which gives you access to your Inner Guidance System. Your Inner Guidance System is your inner wisdom. If you've been around for a while, you've heard me talk about the steps often, but it might be a good time for a review.
There are four steps in the Inner Guidance Cycle. They are
The first step: PAUSE
By taking the first step, PAUSE, you'll start to awaken your Inner Guidance System. It's that wise part of you that helps you to get a hold of your thoughts and then move forward with a conscious response.
From reacting to responding
Most of us are so stressed that we react to whatever shows up. However, because of our stressed state, we can't think clearly. As a result, we don't take time to choose how we want to respond, engage or the kind of leader we want to be at this moment.
Pausing is stopping, pulling back or taking a break. When we PAUSE, our brain and body begin to relax, allowing us to get out of stress mode and think more clearly. Being more relaxed will enable us to respond and make conscious choices instead of reacting to every fire that pops up.
Pausing is part of journeys
Think for a moment about a road trip. Often when you are travelling, you take breaks. You pull over to the side of the road and stop. That might be a roadside turnout so that you can stretch. You might pause on your trip to stop for fuel. The point is that you can only way to refuel, stretch, or go to the bathroom if you stop.
Leaders need pauses too
In leadership, when we pause, the pause allows us to become mindful and present to what is happening. Rather than being present, most of us have a ton of racing thoughts whirling about in our heads. Those racing thoughts are usually about a future worry or passed incident that we are still stewing about.
Pausing settles your racing thoughts
When you pause, you are not in the future or the past but in the present moment. At this moment, you will find access to your Inner Guidance System. When you mindfully tune in to those thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you will find the inner wisdom that helps to guide you forward.
You won't always remember to pause when you need to
Learning to make pauses a regular part of your routine takes time. Eventually, you may get to the point where there is a trigger that reminds you to pause. That trigger could be when you're feeling:
Those might be signals to go for a little walk, take a deep breath or spend some time trying to figure out why you are so agitated. But often, we ignore those triggers. We push them aside because we have too much work to do. So, for now, don't wait for the trigger. Instead, schedule the time in to pause.
You'll need to prompt yourself to take pauses
You need to schedule your pauses in. Creating breaks in your schedule will help you to build a habit of pausing. So that you get used to responding to the triggers, it is important to start with establishing a routine of stopping and pausing. Remember, it's this first step of pausing that is going to allow you to awaken your Inner Guidance System.
Plan to make these kinds of pauses
Look through your day and decide how you can add these types of pauses:
??♀️BODY BREAK - Having a physical break to go to the bathroom, for eating and move your body
? SOUL BREAK - A mindful moment to take a few breaths, meditate or sit in peace
? MIND BREAK - Time for self-reflection. Effective leaders need time to think, ponder and tune in. Self-reflection is the time for leaders to ask themselves:
Scheduling your pauses in
It's time to schedule those breaks in. I recommend adding triggers to help you remember to do them, even when busy.
? Block time off in your schedule or day-timer. If you think you'll remember to do it, guess what? You won't. Schedule it in.
?️ Set reminders to notify, encourage and motivate you.
Reminders about WHY you must schedule the pauses in
? Because you will only do it regularly if you schedule it.
? Because even though you mean to, you'll get busy and forget
? Because it takes longer than you think to establish a habit
? Because it tells those around you that you value balance
Awaken your Inner Guidance System: Step # 1 - Pause
Start accessing your inner wisdom and allowing it to guide you by pausing. By awakening your Inner Guidance System, you will be learning to get control of your thoughts and feelings. That internal control will help you become confident in your leadership abilities, bounce back when adversity hits and be your best self. Begin to awaken that Inner Guidance System by scheduling pauses throughout your day.
P.S. If you are ready to dive into all four steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle and use it to boost your confidence, grab Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system
Do you wonder how to be the best leader you can be? One who makes a difference, has a great team and finds some balance in life?
Unfortunately, it's not the easiest thing to do. One of the reasons we struggle is that we don't see a lot of other women doing it, so part of us doesn't believe it's even possible. We need more women mentors. I keep looking for them and sharing them with you so we both have more inspiration.
Let me introduce you to Yvette Vargas.
I was listening to an interview with Yvette, Head of Development at Citizen's Bank in the states. Yvette was part of a Women in Leadership conversation series for LHH, an organization that focuses on recruitment, assessments, coaching, and career transitions.
I found Yvette's story, persistence and intentional personal and professional growth as a woman leader inspiring. So many of the suggestions she made for women in leadership had me thinking of the four fundamentals I teach leaders.
Let's dive into them together.
The four fundamentals of leadership:
Lead with Authenticity - Be yourself
On Citizen's Bank website, Yvette is quoted as saying, "I used to have separate selves — mother to my children, wife to my husband, caretaker to my parents, employee and friend. I thought that compartmentalizing my 'different selves' would help me manage each relationship better," she said. However, it's only by working to integrate her selves — and finding a job that allows her to bring every aspect of herself to work — that she's found true meaning in her career.
This quote speaks to the authentic nature that we need to lead with. We are not separate people in different aspects of our lives. We are one person doing various things. The more authentic you are, the more confident and comfortable you will feel, and you'll make a more considerable contribution.
To help you lead your best, I encourage you to identify your strengths, gifts, and personality traits. Then, do the work to figure out who you are and authentically be who you are daily.
Continue to grow yourself personally and professionally - Develop yourself
Intentionally developing yourself is critical to becoming the leader you want to be. Yvette spoke in the interview about being very intentional about this. She indicated you need to develop your growth plant and intentionally spend time working on yourself.
"The amount of time you spend on something is a manifestation of what you value."
If you value your growth and development, you'll put time into growing and developing yourself.
Be a balanced leader - Take care of yourself
4️⃣As I listened to Yvette, I could tell she has drive. That's different than being driven. When the work drives you, it becomes a problem. When you drive the work, you do that with intentionality. You also need the energy to do that! That means you need to take care of yourself.
But Yvette wasn't always that way. She tells the story of needing to shift from being driven by her career to intentionally creating her life and career simultaneously—that required intentionality and self-care.
Taking care of yourself it's not something you do just outside of work. It is something you do all day long. Start by adding teach micro-moments of wellness into your workday.
Be a leader, teacher, mentor and coach - Teach others to do the same
I love Yvette's story of supporting other women to grow and pulling them up as you advance. She learned this early on from her mother and sisters. She's been clear about continuing to do it throughout her career. She sees a large part of her role is developing others.
When we teach others to be themselves, develop themselves and take care of themselves, we do this through mentoring, guidance, coaching and leadership. Our job as a leader is not always correct and fix employees. Our job as leaders is to help our employees reach their full potential.
The four fundamentals of leadership:
What strategy, suggestion, or idea will you begin with today? Hit reply and tell me where you are starting and what you are inspired to awaken in yourself after listening to Yvettes' story.
As you go about your day as a nonprofit leader, something may happen, and you may feel your body tighten. For example, your stomach knots up, your chest feels heavy, or your throat tightens or feels dry. Perhaps you overreact or shut down. This physical response may be a sign you may have just got triggered.
We often get triggered when something threatens our values. This response results when we feel something important to us is at risk.
Here's how I got triggered this weekend...
Let me give you an example. I value order. I like things to be in their place, and I like to have things tidy. However, this weekend I was triggered multiple times by mud on the floor and the result from when someone in my house who didn't think it was a problem not to clean their feet before they came in. (Can you guess who?)
We're in the middle of backyard renovations. Unfortunately, with this weekend's rain, my backyard was a mud hole. Each time my husband, the dog, or I came in, a pile of mud and dirt came with us. Because a sense of order is important to me, I would take my shoes off outside, ensure the dog's feet were clean before he came in and immediately sweep up any chunks of mud.
This is what triggered me...
On the other hand, my husband sees the mess as part of the process, so the mess doesn't bother him. So it's not a problem for him to walk around barefoot outside and come into the house. He values freedom, ease and relaxation. He likes to be barefoot, and walking around in the grass and mud doesn't bother him. The house will get cleaned eventually, so what's the big deal?
Which camp are you in?
This is how knowing my trigger helped me
Knowing that I'm triggered by disarray helps me manage my emotions and be somewhat humourous about my incessant need to clean. Aware that the tightness in my chest is building, I can manage my frustration with my husband by managing my self-talk, taking some deep breaths or distracting myself with something I enjoy.
During a coaching call the other day, my client Jenessa became aware that when others aren't accountable for their actions or in-actions, or their responsibilities etc., she is triggered. Jenessa feels her chest tighten, purses her lips, and sometimes clenches her hands. She laughed at the memory of pounding out a response to a chat message when she was annoyed with someone shirking their responsibility.
Does either of these feel familiar to you?
This is why identifying your triggers is important
Identifying triggers is part of working with and understanding our values to help us be more emotionally intelligent and confident in our abilities. When you know what's important to you and what it feels like when that thing (i.e. order, accountability) is being threatened, it's easier to choose a response than react in a way you may regret later.
Below you'll find steps to help you find the clarity around your value to help you be more intentional instead of reactionary.
5 steps to use your VALUES to be more emotionally intelligent
Here is the process to help you find the clarity around your value to help you be more intentional instead of reactionary.
1 - Identify your values
2- Get an understanding of what your values mean to you
3 - Determine how your values show up in your life
4 - Pinpoint what's going on when you are aligned with your values or not
5- Get clear on what triggers show up when things in your life aren't in line with your values
This deeper understanding of your values helps you to manage your emotions, navigate tough conversations and focus on what matters most when it matters most!
One more example...
If you are trying to wind down a conversation at a meeting, you may value timeliness or efficiency. Your annoyance with those who are dragging the conversation out is triggering that value.
That's why you are:
Conversely, your peer may be
See how that all works together?
Need some help?
This month inside my membership, I added a worksheet to the Values Verification course, helping members identify their triggers. If this is part of what you need, or the five steps listed above, check out the course here and if you think it would be helpful, join the membership here.
When you join The Training Library membership, you'll become confident in your leadership abilities, learn to bounce back when adversity hits, discover how to be your best self and find a place to belong!
Becoming emotionally intelligent and confident in our leadership abilities takes time and requires skill development and increased awareness of what makes us tick! To do this, take responsibility for where you are and where you are going by creating your own personal and professional development plan. Intentional development is your path to success in both your leadership and life.
Read this next:
The 8 most overlooked definitions in leadership and why they matter
I bet there are times you wish you could be involved in an engaging leadership experience? Not a one-off course, webinar or conference session, but an experience, over time, that deepens your learning!
In 2012 I did that. For 10 months, about 20 other leaders from around the world and I learned together, online and in person. Four times we met for a week at a time in California. Between those sessions, we met online and had partner projects that required us to meet in person with our partners. It was an incredible experience. It was also one of the most transformative things I've ever done.
Not everyone can do something like that, but we can create learning experiences for our teams. Not training per se, but an experience where you learn, grow and develop over time.
I am blessed to be working with a large group of nonprofit leaders for nine months to help them become inspiring leaders. Inspiring leaders motivate and engage their teams, so they enjoy their jobs and do meaningful work together.
One of the first things I covered with the participants of the Inspiring Leadership group was the four fundamentals of leadership. They are the base for the future of the work we do together.
Even though you may not be involved in a group program, you can benefit from these fundamentals and use them over the next several months of your leadership journey. I'll give you a brief overview and share some suggestions that you can do to work on yourself! Then you can create your strategy and plan for growth.
The 4 fundamentals of leaders
As teenagers, we spent a lot of time figuring out our identity, answering the question, who am I? But as we mature, we have spent more time conforming to what's expected of us than who we are and are more focused on; how do I fit in? As such, we've often lost touch with who we are.
The first thing I do with individuals or teams is help them identify their strengths, values and morals. Understanding what makes you tick, thrive, and the triggers that make you react is fundamental to inspiring, motivating and engaging others.
Suggestion: Take time to consider:
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Ongoing personal and professional development is critical. For example, when I was in the ten-month leadership program, we had a list of required reading, each had a coach, and we learned A LOT about leadership and ourselves. At the end of the course, I committed to continue learning to be a better speaker and joined Toastmasters. I'm still involved!
Suggestion: Create your learning plan
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is critical for effective leadership.
Suggestion: Commit to wellness
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Teach others to do the same
If you want the best for and out of the people you work with, they need to be themselves, develop themselves and take care of themselves. Teach, role model and mentor these habits to them.
Suggestion: Coach your people
Extra Resources for The Training Library membership members:
Starting the journey of mastering these fundamentals is critical for you to BECOME confident in your abilities, BOUNCE BACK when adversity hits and BE your best self!
Join the membership
Listen to the podcasts
Read the book
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.