So many people wait until their situation feels so heavy, so desperate, that they then frantically search for a solution – anything that looks like it may help. Often, that solution presents itself in a HUGE package, such as signing up for an MBA, which takes more of your time, more of your money, and assumes applicability to your business.
The availability, simplicity and profound impact of a business coach can be totally transformational. So, how do you know if you need a coach?
As yourself the following questions:
Am I objectively doing what’s best for my business?
Do I challenge myself to think creatively?
Am I doing the best I can with the resources that I have?
Where is my business going? Realistically.
Is there anyone, with business knowledge, who I can discuss my business with, who has the best interests of my business at heart?
Are my business thought processes proactive and ingenious?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, then do yourself a favour … get a coach!
Creating a to-do list has long been known as an effective tool for getting things done. There are several reasons for this. One is that when you put things into a physical list, you release yourself from the stress of trying to remember all the things you need to do. Another is that when you document the things you need to do, your subconscious mind starts to work through them. And finally, drafting a to-do list creates a system through which you enable yourself to achieve your goals.
So how do you make your to-do list work for you?
Take note of your personality type. Do you prefer to work to tight deadlines? Do you do your best work when you have all the details available, or is improvisation your strength? Construct your to-do list accordingly.
In how many areas of your life do you have responsibilities to complete? Create sections in your to-do list, so that you compartmentalise your life and then work on one thing at a time.
Urgent/important must get done first. We don’t subscribe to the erroneous belief that says do the little things on your to-do list first, so that you can cross them off. Although there is some logic to this, and crossing off items on a to-do list does generate pleasant feelings of accomplishment, always do the most urgent and important tasks first so that you work in an intelligent manner.
Know your own personal preferences. Do you prefer to work in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Do you work in long stretches, or do you need a break every 45 minutes? Structure your tasks accordingly.
Set time limits. Resolve that no task will remain on your to-do list for x amount of time. This means that you have deadlines, which you actively work toward.
Make your to-do list work for you. It is your tool and only you can make it effective. Draw pictures, diagrams, prioritise with numbers, letters or symbols. The principle is if you accomplish one big thing on your list every day, you are moving yourself forward in a deliberate manner.
Evaluate and re-evaluate. Remember that the to-do list is only as effective as you are. If it doesn’t work for you, change your approach so that it does!
“Rename your ‘to-do’ list your ‘opportunities’ list. Each day is a treasure chest filled with limitless opportunities; take joy in checking many off your list.”
Have you ever been so inspired by what you do that you jump out of bed early in the morning, filled with energy and ready to start working on your passion? For many of us this is unfortunately something we only see in the movies!
The funny thing is that people who have the habit of waking up early and getting those couple of extra hours in the day, not only get more done, but also seem to have more energy and a retain a sense of calm in their day.
From Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Hemingway to Richard Branson, an overwhelming number of super successful people publicise their daily ritual of rising with or before the sun. In April 2013 The Guardian published an article stating that the majority of successful business leaders wake up and jump out of bed before 5am.
Imagine what you could achieve if you had an extra hour in your day, every day? That would give you seven extra hours a week, which is almost a full working day! You’d get 365 extra productive hours a year, which equates to an extra month in which you could learn a new language, finish that assignment, or write the report that you never seem to get to.
It’s not only a matter of mind over mattress, but also a matter of putting aside the mind’s chatter (“you’re tired”, “you need more sleep”), and igniting excitement about the formation of new, highly beneficial habits.
We’ve all had to have awkward or difficult conversations with someone at work. Many of us spend enormous amounts of time considering how the other person will respond, and forget to concentrate on how we can put our message across in the most effective way.
The ‘sandwich method’ (say something positive, give the negative feedback, and then end on a positive note) is only successful if you have genuine positive pointers to share. Most intelligent employees are aware of the tactic, and pick up quickly that you are using a ‘method’ rather than being authentic.
So, how do you have those difficult conversations?
Here are 10 easy steps that should make the next confrontation easier to manage:
Address the issue, not the person. The less personal, and the more objective you are, the more effective your feedback will be.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. You cannot simply tell someone that his or her standard of work is not good enough. You need to have concrete examples that prove the errors obviously.
Have a clear outcome in mind. Know why you are having the discussion, and what you really want to achieve from the talk, as well as what may result from the conversation.
Make notes. When you have a difficult conversation, you cannot freeze, or forget, what you want to say. Once you have created the opportunity to converse, you need to communicate professionally. Make notes of what you want to say, and in what order, so that your discussion follows a logical sequence.
Listen actively. There is always another perspective. Give the employee the opportunity to speak, and not just for the sake of letting them speak. Actually listen to what they are saying.
Diagnose the problem. There can only be so many reasons for non-performance. Make sure that you have considered both internal factors, such as motivation, ability and skills, as well as external factors, such as resources, training and opportunities. It’s only when all factors are taken into consideration that an issue can truly be resolved.
Be constructive. Engage in the discussion as a problem solving exercise, rather than as a disciplinary event. If you are open and genuine, the employee should pick up on that and participate, rather than defend.
Define measurable milestones. Together with the employee, clearly define how and when future performance will be measured, so that goals are clear and assessable.
Create a partnership. You and the employee are in this together. You need to work effectively as a team to resolve the issue. Ensure that you have provided, and continue to deliver, the support, resources and clear understanding of the outcomes, so that the employee is not limited from performing in any way.
Reward success. Even if effective performance is part of the employee’s job description, you have engaged in a process, and there must be positive reinforcement to commend the effort and results, and embed future positive behaviour.
We’ve heard it said before: “No-one lies on their deathbed and wishes that they’d spent more time at the office.” The irony is that this is often said to those who desperately need to hear it, but although most of us would agree with the sentiment, there is frequently something stronger that drives us and pulls us into working long hours, whether ambition, a sense of responsibility towards our clients and our business, or an overwhelming to-do list.
The key to achieving a sense of work-life balance is to integrate the meaningful components of your life in such a way that each part of your life can flourish.
We’re not saying that the some parts of people’s lives don’t function independently, but rather that if your family supports and understands your work, they feel more involved, you feel less alone, and you are able to achieve a sense of belonging with your own people. In a way it’s about having your own cheerleading squad who support and sustain you – to include your loved ones in your work life makes absolute sense.
We believe David Rockefeller summed it up perfectly in a sentence:
“I am convinced that material things can contribute a lot to making one’s life pleasant, but, basically, if you do not have very good friends and relatives who matter to you, life will be really empty and sad, and material things cease to be important.”
Every stress management article out there promotes identifying the cause of your stress – treating the source and not the symptom. The problem with this is that for most people who are active in the economy, life in general is the source of stress. Trying to get through what we’ve planned, feeling pressure to constantly up our game, and continually feeling the need to create balance, are just some of the areas that contribute to feelings of stress.
Regardless of the source of your stress, if you resolve it, there is a high likelihood that it will be replaced by something equally, or more, stressful. The principle then is to learn how to manage your stress levels so that you feel in control of your life.
The below are 10 simple stress busting tips that really work and can transform your life:
Learn to say no! If it’s not your responsibility, do not allow someone else to increase your workload and cause distress.
Categorise what matters to you. We can all list our priorities. It’s when clients and colleagues start to pressurise us that we lose sight of what really matters. Keep the vision of what really matters firmly in your mind.
Do what you enjoy doing first. There is a time management principle that promotes getting the work you don’t like doing out of the way first. We advocate that in fact the opposite holds true. Doing what you love and what you’re good at increases your energy levels so that the rest of your day is more fruitful, productive and enjoyable.
Exercise. Whether it’s yoga, running or going for a walk, the human body needs the endorphins that come from physical movement. They are a natural stress reliever, and give us the ability to think clearly.
Breathe. For years we have been told that we slump at our desks and only fill the top 12% of our lungs’ capacity. At least every hour, take a few seconds to have a few really good, deep breaths – inhale for five slow counts, gently hold for five counts, and then exhale for five slow counts.
Cold water. Most of us are slightly dehydrated. By sipping cold water we not only rehydrate, but we also refresh ourselves and keep our bodies, and energy levels, from slumping during the day.
Positive talk. Although stress does not arise from a negative self-perception, how we handle stress can be strongly influenced by how we perceive ourselves and our stress levels. Be kind to yourself and be kind about yourself. Watch your internal dialogue, and if you wouldn’t talk that way to a loved one, don’t talk that way to yourself.
Have fun. So many people get caught up working incredibly hard to build a life that they want, and forget that the process is part of life itself. By the time you’ve achieved your goal, you will probably be too exhausted to enjoy it. Let yourself appreciate all the moments along the way.
Let others help. So often our stress comes from the belief that we have to do everything, and it all has to be done 100% right. Getting another perspective can often offer amazing insights, and realising that imperfect is also good enough is a valuable step in managing feelings of overwhelm and stress.
Rest when you’re resting. When it’s time out, it is not time to discuss, or read, or think about work. It is time to let your body, mind and psyche take a break. Embrace it.
You know what’s amazing? If you look at great inventors, composers or artists, there are always stories detailing how they spent hours as children investigating, growing and cultivating their competencies in one way or another. That passion then grew into an art form, which became integrally and seamlessly part of their lives.
Think about when you were a kid. What did you spend your time doing? What was your greatest pleasure? Did you transform it into your adulthood occupation? Or are you miles away, doing something that makes you count the hours until you can be free from your office? And how is it that some people get it right and love their work?
When it comes down to it, it’s the strength of the passion that ultimately drives people to become fully engaged in what they love doing. They cannot imagine doing anything else, and in many cases, they cannot force themselves to do anything else.
It may sound a cliché, but you really are the captain of your own destiny. It’s up to you to steer the ship of your own path, and chart the waters of circumstance in the direction that you aspire to. When you were a child, if someone asked you what you wanted to spend your time doing, the answer came really easily.
So think about this: What is it that you really love spending your time doing? And how can you make a career of it?
In 2009, Vishen Lakhiani was asked to speak at Engage Today in Calgary, alongside such luminaries as Sir Richard Branson, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Stephen Covey, Nobel Prize Winner F.W. De Klerk, Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos.com, and world-famous artist Wyland. He talks about ‘flow’, the ultimate state of human existence. You’re in the ‘flow state’ when you are being pulled forward by big goals, but are also happy with exactly where you are.
The concept of being ‘in your flow’ sounds so simple and easy. Most South Africans however profess to being very stressed or under immense pressure. The question is, how much of that stress is beneficial, and how much is necessity?
Defining stress in these terms is unconventional. Traditionally stress is seen as the ultimate evil, to be avoided at all costs, and is perceived to be neither beneficial nor essential. However, if you think about it, the business world thrives on stress. It is the pulsating pressure that makes things happen and moves us forward.
So how does that help us get into our flow? Psychologically, you’re in your flow when you have the perfect balance between feeling challenged, using your abilities to create meaningful work, and finding happiness in the moment. Experiencing the right amount of stress can stimulate you to achieve the overcoming of obstacles, and the advancement of yourself. That way, you play to your natural strengths and keep yourself vital.
By redefining how you think about stress, how you experience it, and by assessing the levels of stress you can tolerate before it becomes harmful, your flow overflows and your stress levels work to your advantage.
“Inhale the future. Exhale the past.” – Unknown
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