Giving ourselves time to think is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Most of us rarely spend much time in self-reflection. While we know it might be beneficial, we don’t believe we have time. In fact, what we tend to do is we often blame others for not giving us time to think.
Playing victim does not win you time to self-reflect. It just makes you crazy.
Do Self-reflection intentionally
The random reflection is important. To take reflection to the next notch though, you may want to intentionally set aside time for focused self-reflection. This might be time to think about a specific event, a conversation or a challenging situation you are currently trying to sort out. In being more intentional during self-reflection, you can give your mind time to work its way around whatever you need to sort out.
How to do Self-reflection
Here’s an example of how I used self-reflection to sort out my dilemma
I was at a meeting the other day and someone said something offensive to another member of the team. The comment was meant as a joke, however, it was grossly inappropriate. As one of the leaders in this group, I felt it was my responsibility to address it.
I want to have something to say that will not only stop the negative behavior but also inspire the individual making the inappropriate comment to consider their impact and become more conscious in how they say things. It is through my self-reflection that I can get my desired outcome.
Let self-reflection grow your leadership
Self-reflection allows us to be aligned with our purpose and values. It can have us become more intentional in getting the impact we desire and going in the direction we want to go. We have to, however, make the time to do it. Add self-reflection to the top of your To Do list today!
Let me help you out with some regular reminders about slowing down.
Join me for Coffee Break with Kathy
Have you heard about GRIT? New research has shown that GRIT is responsible for kids to get better grades and for Leaders to become stronger. GRIT is also what it takes to get really good at being productive.
To be productive you must learn to focus long term
Anyone can focus for a second or two. Heck we can focus on a task for a few minutes fairly easily, as long as we aren't interrupted. But how do you focus on something for longer than that? Sure shutting the door helps. Reducing outside distractions is important. I love headphones for that. But the interruptions still come. They still hit us. Again, and again and again.
Distractions pummel us
Just like pounding rain on you as you run to your car or someone winging a ball at you in a game of dodgeball, distractions at the office are ruthless. Someone interrupts. The phone rings. You hear a conversation that you wish you hadn't because now, you should probably go intervene.
Before you know it, you are way off track.
Here is what works for me.
1) Decide - Just decide to focus. You simply have to decide that you will focus. I learned a long time ago that if I decide ahead of time, how many reps I will lift, how much I will spend or how far I will go, that is exactly what I do. But I can't be wishy washy about it. At back to school time I said "I'm only going to spend about $100 on a pair of runners" for my daughter. Instead it became closer to $140 because I was not firm.
To get through the distractions, get gritty
If only it were that easy. The truth is, it takes what Angela Duckworth calls GRIT. I have to dig my heels in. I need to be determined. I must be firm with someone who comes to my door to talk to me by saying "not now". I have to be persistent in sticking at it. Sometimes it requires a high level of will power. Actually, most days it does! I in fact, have to be a Women with Grit.
Decide, be determined, get focused, and be productive
Setting your mind to completing a task can go a long way to getting it done. Decide what it is you need to complete, in what time frame, and get going.
Watch below for more about getting focused.
Leaders used to have 9 key things on their To Do list and they could devise relatively simple systems to help prioritize their tasks. Now, we have at least 99 things on our To Do list, and many more that we’ve forgotten about.
The squeaky wheel gets the Leader's attention
We tend to react, simply to the item that is screaming the loudest or doing the best “you need to pay attention to me now” dance. Alternately, we turn to the one that will require the least brain power because we are numb from all that is required of us. That would likely be sifting through the same inbox again and again for an hour.
This way is killing you
None of these methods work. You know that! You know because you’ve done them for a while and you still feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. You are not getting to the really meaningful things you want to be working on.
The only way to do the work that matters is to do it.
I’ve learned over the past few years that the only way I am going to do the things that really matter, is if I do them. It’s that simple. They will not magically get done in the wee hours of the morning. There is no Rumpelstilskin in my office. They won't get done in between meetings that someone else thinks I should attend. They get done, when I put them in the top priority spot of my To Do list.
Try a new way to prioritze
The way to place meaningful work at the top is to identify what really matters by asking yourself these 3 questions when you prioritize your daily tasks.
#1 - What will bring our team closer to meeting our purpose or vision?
What is the real reason you are working on things? It isn’t about a report, a meeting or a task. Stop and think about why you do the work you do. It’s about people isn’t it? It is about real live humans that have a need. You know how to help them. The problem is that their needs get pushed back with all the administrative tasks. Get clear on what you need to do to meet the real needs of the people you serve.
#2 - What will grow our team stronger?
Running scattered this way and that will surely make it feel like you don’t have time for your employees. They will feel unimportant and separated from you. Yet, you know that a cohesive team is what gets teams through the tough times. Strong teams excel at excellent work. If you instead consider them and their need, and determine perhaps how their needs can fit with your needs you might find ways to grow together. Just like cooking or working-out with your kids close by when they are young, having your staff member actually help you with a report will not only have them develop their skills, but it will develop your relationship with them. Working together on things, rather than divide you, will grow your team stronger.
#3 - What will grow me?
The best Leaders focus on growth for themselves constantly. They read. They reflect. They take training. They involve themselves in conversations that stretch the way they think and encourage them to see things from different perspectives. But this requires time. You must schedule time to read. You must schedule time to be coached, have coffee with your mentor or attend a networking session. Do it. Make it happen.
Push the meaningful work to the top of the list
Separate the real work, the meaningful work from the task and administrative duties that blur your vision. Move them to the top of your priority list. In doing so, you will find you enjoy your job a whole lot more because you will be doing what matters most.
Watch for more inspiration about how to make the meaningful work hit the top of your list
You want to be a more productive Leader right?
Because when you are productive you know that that you are more focused, clearer and that you feel much better not only about the work you do, but about yourself.
In your attempt to be more productive you might make a To Do list with a few key things on it and then drop the ball on other things. Or you may be the type to make a massive To Do list with everything you need to do.
Long ToDo Lists are overwhelming
The problem is that with so many things on your ToDo list, it is overwhelming to look at. Just like having a messy desk it is hard to see what you need to actually get at now, during this next hour. These lists actually suck energy out of you just by looking at them.
Here are three lists that you should develop instead of the one massive, overwhelming To Do list.
List #1 - Monthly Focus
First, sit down at the beginning of the month (it doesn't matter if it is the middle of the month now, just do it) and make a list of the projects, tasks and things you need to focus on this month.This list will be the one you come back to several times over the coming weeks to guide you in what to do next and where to focus. For me this month, my focus is on my new blog, the marketing of two upcoming trainings and the redesign of my website.
List #2 - Weekly Priorities
Next, start each week looking at what you need to get done in that week. Weekly focuses give you a span of time to fit things into. Knowing if you don’t get it done the first day of the week, you still have four more days to place it a priority. The weekly focus list will come from a review of your monthly focus combined with any alterations you need to make in your priorities. This week I included my weekly blogs, my Leading the Way weekly video, an application for speaking at a conference, as well as switching my workflow tracking from Things to OmniFocus.
List # 3 - Daily Musts
Finally, the third list is your daily priorities. This list is smaller. It actually will be the top 3 things you absolutely need to get done that day. It is the critical things that you don’t want to drop the ball on. When you get these 3 things done each day, you can move on to what else remains on your weekly focus. But these 3 things come first. My list today included getting this blog posted, recording next weeks video and designing the marketing material for my upcoming Growing Great Woman Leaders training.
The key is to following the system ritually
Jam packed schedules are normal right? Everyone is running from place to place; from meeting to meeting, and from conference call to conference call. It's just the way it is. B.S!
For those of you that don't read short hand, that's Bull Shit.
That is the way we have made it. And we will continue to make it that way if we (and by we, I mean you and I) don't do something about it.
Put a stop to your crazy schedule and in doing so, help each other out by adding these three things to your schedule now.
Once a month: Set your priorities for the month. What projects are you working on? When are the due dates? Back things up to make it manageable and not last minute. Reflect on what you need to get done to meet your personal goals.
Annually: What do you want to accomplish this year? Personally I mean. Finish a course? Get a promotion? Read a book? Take time to look at what you want in addition to all that is expected of you in your Leadership role. Block off time to do this. Plan it in. If you don't you will hit the end of August wondering why over half the year feels like it's gone and you've still got so much to do.
Schedule 15 - 30 minutes a day to reflect. Our best learning and growth happens when we look back over what happened, what we did and how we responded. Taking time to look back at your day will give you guidance and direction moving forward as well as the opportunity to acknowledge yourself for successes you may instead have simply overlooked while running to the next appointment on your calendar.
TAKE YOUR BREAKS! Yes, I am yelling. If I could, I would stand on top of a tree and yell it for everyone to hear. This is vital to Leadership success. We were not meant to run at full adrenaline all day. You know this, but I will repeat it again. It is not healthy, at all to not take breaks.
Welcome to my first of a 4-part series on cleaning your office.
August is, I hope, a slower time for you. There tend to be a few less meetings. Those people that send you work maybe are on holidays. Usually there are fewer deadlines.
Is seems like a fabulous time to spend a bit of time cleaning your office allowing you to re-group before the September craziness starts.
Lets start with your desk.
Three steps to cleaning your desk
DO NOT start with sorting.
But what if I forget something?
You might have a fear that putting the other “stuff” away that doesn’t currently belong on your desk will have you forget it. In my experience, that doesn’t usually happen. If it is something important, put something on your to do list, on your calendar or my favorite, send yourself an email. Then put the file/pile/book/form away until your really do need it. The rest, the stuff you actually do forget about, probably wasn’t really important in the first place ;-)
Clearing your desk will clear you mind. A calmer you will emerge.
Today I am going to point you back to the last four weeks of blog posts and videos about saying “No”.
Maybe you missed all of them or didn’t have time to read or watch each one. Here they are again for you to review. There are four key messages in the posts that I want to make sure you get.
Key Messages about saying "No"
Check back in August for my four part series on cleansing. No, it won’t be about drinking lots of weird fruit juice. It will be about cleaning your office, your calendar, your email and your briefcase. August is typically a slower time for most people. It might be time for you to do a bit of “spring cleaning” of your workspaces.
Getting clear on your "No"
Last week I talked about how to say "No". Review that blog first if you didn't get a chance to read it and watch the video. It is important to get it down so that you feel relatively comfortable about what you are saying "No" to and practice saying “No”.
Are you getting pushback on your "No"
Possibly you have said "No", and you are getting push back. Your boss says, basically, you can't say "No". Perhaps they didn't hear you or maybe they didn’t hear you correctly. Maybe they did hear you and don't believe you. They don’t believe you really mean it. At any rate, here is how to handle these situations.
The 3 R's of making "No" mean "No"
I'm on your side
It is probably hard for you to say “No” the first time around. Having to do it a second time will be even harder. I’m rooting for you to do it. I know you need less on your plate so that you can move towards more balance in your life.
I am tired of seeing burnt out leaders.
It ticks me off ever time someone starts beating themselves up because they are disorganized, because they messed up, when they dropped a ball or they are reminded once again that they cannot be everything to everyone.
It is NOT your fault!
You are not disorganized!
You messed up because you are overloaded with responsibilities.
"It's not the same as it used to be" said a middle aged Team Leader to me last week.
No, you have got that right! It is not.
Instead of managing one group home a few years back, she now has two. Yet she has no more resources than she had a year ago. She echo's a similar story for a lot of leaders.
We have hit the tipping point.
Actually, we passed it a while back! We cannot pile any more work on to Leaders. They are doing more and more and more and struggling to do it well. They are dropping things, messing things up and making unnecessary errors. Then, they feel bad for this. They blame themselves and damage their confidence in the process. What is really happening is that they are tasked with way more than is humanly possible for one person to do.
Are you one of these leaders?
It's time to put your foot down. It is time to say"NO". It is time to say "I can do only this much."
I am not talking about delegating necessarily. Those below you have more than they can handle in most situations also. It is about truly saying "NO! We don't need to do that, pick that up or be responsible for that."
"NO! I will not attend that meeting."
Send me the minutes and I will look over them if/when I have the time and it is truly a priority."
"NO, I will not complete that report by tomorrow morning."
I will however focus my attention on it three days from now when I am finished dealing with this priority issue that is in front of me."
"NO, I cannot cover off that program and deal with the things on my plate right now too."
I can however provide you with a template I used to check off everything I need to make sure is in place when I go away for a week and give responsibly of the program to someone else.
"No, I already have more than I can handle. "
Listen here as I encourage you to say "No" more often.
Guest blogging for me today is Zara Lyttle MSW RSW.
Zara just completed her Master's in Social Work. I remember a time long ago (or so it seems) when I was working on my degree, working full time and raising my family. It was extremely difficult.
Many women want to make this journey. They don't want to decide between career, education and raising their family. They want to do it simultaneously and actually find the experience rewarding.
How do you do that though? in the face of overwhelm and the bombardment of doubts, how do you stick to the path?
Zara found a way and shares her story here. You will find some great lessons for anyone trying to live life to the fullest!
Starting the journey
As a mother of two young children working part-time as a professional in the social work field I encountered a unique opportunity when my son was a year old. It was the chance to take my Masters in Social Work near my home community in Northern Alberta. This was something I always wanted to do and my husband encouraged me to apply. I knew I would be embarking on something that would change my daily life and future direction. I also know myself and if I was accepted into the program, I would commit myself to completing it. Here I am 3 years later and I am proud to say I did it, I have my Masters in Social Work! I want to describe to the reader the process of how I was able to manage multiple roles which still ensuring I cared for myself and was “Present” as a mother, wife, friend, professional, and student.
Supportive employers help
When I started my program I knew I would have to continue work part-time. Luckily I had a flexible employer that let me do a great deal of my reporting work from home. This eased the pressure on my time for attending block week classes and doing my practicum three days per week. The support from my employer was just a piece of the puzzle that was my support system while I completed the two year masters program.
Build a large support network
The biggest support I had was my husband. He provided the encouragement when I doubted being able to juggle everything. He took time off work to care for our children while I was away and generally was just there, telling me how proud he was of me. It wasn’t easy as we didn’t always have a lot of time together, but we soon fell into a routine of “scheduling” time together as almost a reward for me completing schoolwork. It was a motivator for getting my work done.
Another huge support was my mother, who helped me get through a move partway through the program, also provided child care, and allowed me to complain about my workload while still reminding me that I “could always quit if I wanted to”. It was funny, that reminder that I was making a choice to do the coursework was a motivator for me. She kept me sane through the process.
Surround yourself with positive people
Altogether, I took support from friends and family when I needed it and was encouraged all along the way. One friend let me stay with her during my block classes and listened as I excitedly told her what I was learning. I encourage anyone wanting to go back to school for higher education to surround themselves with positive people who love you and will give you the support you need. You also have to be willing to accept that support, as that isn’t always easy either!
Be present each moment along the journey
Lastly, the most important piece of advice that I believe can help anyone attempting to juggle the multiple roles we all have in life is being “present” in the moment. My focus was that for each task, each role I was mentally and emotionally “present” for them. It wasn’t always easy when I had papers due, family commitments, and work reports upcoming. I had to commit myself to being present at all times. When I was with my children and husband I focused on them. When I was writing a paper I focused on that. When I was at practicum I focused on that. Well…you get the idea. Being present was a constant exercise in focus that I believe allowed me to accomplish what I needed to while still being a mother to my children (which was the most important thing to me in the whole process).
This was my visual cue I carried around with me during the two year program. Good luck to all those that embark on the journey of balancing roles and being “present”. It can be done, but not without support …
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
Sign up for my newsletter here!
Want to follow my blog?
Click the RSS feed below and follow the instructions. That way, you won't miss any updates!