Do you ever feel like you’re pulled in so many directions you get nothing done? You wish that only if you could get an uninterrupted block of time you might make some headway, but just when you get started - something else grabs your attention and away you go.
While it might be helpful to know you’re not alone in this experience (we've all been there!), just knowing that doesn’t change anything, right? This week I want to introduce you to a couple of strategies to help you change that because focus is all about where you put your energy.
Let’s start with what’s happening on the inside. Say you’re working towards an end goal: finishing a project, doing the housework, even picking your kids up from school. In any of these moments you can either choose to focus on the negative stuff that doesn’t support you, or you can choose to look at what will support you. We looked at this in the blog on filters. So, what’s the difference? Well, you may have heard the phrase: what you focus on grows. If you’re focusing on the pile of washing, the traffic jams, the long to-do list then I can imagine you’re not only feeling overwhelmed and disgruntled, but also not very motivated to keep going. And the more you get frustrated with the situation, the worse it becomes.
On the other hand, if you choose to look at the positives: your achievements, the small steps you’re taking to get something done, the reason you’re working through the washing pile (so you can have beautifully clean clothes!) – your whole world can seem brighter. Same task, different focus. The more you notice the great moments, the more they ‘grow’. Chances are these moments have always been there, but in all your busyness you may never have been awake to them.
On a hands-on action level, one thing that’s really helped me with focus is a simple phrase I picked up from an online mentor, Janet Beckers. I was forever feeling like I was busy, busy, busy but getting nowhere. In one of her blogs, Janet mentioned F.O.C.U.S. to mean Follow One Course Until Successful. When I heard this it was like someone had given me a gift. (Thank you, Janet!) I was so exhausted spreading my energy across so many projects. It had never occurred to me (where was my focus??) that it could be different if I only focused on one project at a time. Simple, but true. And what a game-changer.
What if you focused on only one project at a time? And once that was completed THEN you took on another project?
I applied this new view of F.O.C.U.S. in terms of working on one big project at a time, as well as segmenting my day. If I was writing blogs, that’s all I was doing. I limited my distractions until I got that job done. And the result? I was so much more productive! Lesson learned! Even now, I use F.O.C.U.S. to keep myself on track, focused, and being productive.
It all depends where you’re looking.
Have a go at shifting your focus, and see the difference it makes in your life!
Have a great week,
In my last blog, I touched briefly on how what’s happening on your inside can influence your perception of your outside world. I was speaking about how working through your emotions around an issue can provide you with clarity – a whole new way of looking at your situation. Your emotions are just one filter that influence how you see your world.
These filters are a very cool thing to know about. We all have them, and they’re formed by our life experiences from the moment we come into this world, and some may say even before that. Once you become aware of your filters, you can choose to change them – and therefore how you experience your world. What happens on the inside has a huge effect on what happens on the outside!
So what are these filters? Well, they’re a bit like a filter you might put on a camera – add a filter and the image you see looks different. As you keep layering filters over the top your image will change again and again. In your mind, these filters take the form of things like your beliefs, your memories, your attitude, and your focus, for example.
When you take a life situation, such as going for a job interview, your approach to that interview will depend on so many factors:
There are many ways to slice up this one example – but you can see what I mean. Filters don’t operate by themselves either. Your belief about interviews is likely influenced by your memories of past interviews, which influences your attitude and where you’re focusing as you walk into the building. All of these things are going to have an effect on your posture, your language – to yourself and others, and most likely your performance.
You may be thinking, well that’s all very nice but that’s just the way I feel and there’s nothing I can do about it. Maybe. Maybe not. What happened previously may not happen now. Today you are in a different place in your life than your last memory. You can choose what happens next: to hold on to that memory so you can relive it at your next interview or not. To continue your beliefs about interviews, or not. To retain your current attitude towards interviews, or not. You can see where I’m going here. If something’s working for you, keep it. But if it’s not…wouldn’t you like to have a different experience?
Changing your filters starts with becoming aware of what’s happening on the inside. Start to observe yourself and your response to life. When something great happens: run through what was happening on the inside – what were your beliefs, memories of similar events, attitudes, and focus? How did these contribute to your response to the situation? If something crappy happens, do the same thing – check in on your beliefs, memories of similar events, attitudes, and focus? How did these contribute to your response to the situation?
You can’t change what happens, but you can change how you respond to it and that can make all the difference to your experience and what happens next.
Have a think about it. Try it on. See how you go.
Have a great week,
When change lands in your lap unexpectedly, after the initial shock of emotion, there’s often a crazy urge to get life back to normal as quickly as possible – whatever normal looks like! Maybe it’s establishing a routine, maybe it’s getting your brain to function with some ounce of energy, maybe it’s touching base with the important people in your life and ensuring your relationship is still intact.
A couple of years ago a job contract I thought was ongoing for some time came abruptly to a halt. All of a sudden I went from months (years?) of employment to a couple of weeks. The change in circumstances was a complete shock to the system, and there were a few tears as I processed the news I’d just been given. Then I pushed the tears aside and tried to gain some mental clarity so I focus on fixing the issue. I had to find a job. Knowing I was employed and had ongoing financial support was my ‘getting back to normal’, and that was my priority.
Lurking underneath though there were still emotions lurking, fumbling about, being processed. I didn’t want to look at them just though, but I knew I had to at some point.
Sudden change (of the ‘negative’ variety) can be a lot like grief – there’s a change in your relationship with your life as you know it. You may be in denial or angry about it. You might be angry at particular people, or angry with yourself. You may start bargaining with yourself, with others (real or imagined), or with the universe – that if this situation could just go back to being the way it was you would look after yourself so much better in future (or whatever your bargaining chip is). Maybe your mood slumps to depression as you feel so down on yourself, your current situation, and your feeling of lost power to do anything about your life.
All these feelings are completely normal – and it’s okay to feel them as you process what’s happened and readjust to the way your life looks. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel them so you can let them go. Blocked feelings just hang about waiting for a chance to surface. The sooner you work them through the better. That said, you can’t simply force feelings out like squeezing a pimple. They need to surface of their own accord like a buried splinter working its way to your outer layer of skin.
It may help to talk to a friend about what’s going on for you, or speak with a complete stranger like a counsellor or someone on one of those free support lines. Journaling can also help because it gets the emotions out into words, on paper – and it’s private, just for your eyes. Working the emotions through can also help to work out what ‘normal’ is meant to be for you right now. Change often happens for a reason, it’s just hard to see it in the moment. When you go inside and work through the emotions, it filters through to your perception of the world around you and your focus can become so much clearer.
In my example above, this is exactly what happened. Yes, I needed a new job – but what? I trawled the online job websites to no avail. So, in the meantime I worked through my emotions and what I loved about my current job so much, and why I was so upset about the contract ending…what was that really about for me? By understanding those things about myself, I found it easier to let that job go and be open to finding a new job that was even better suited to my skills and interests.
What emotions from a sudden life change are still hanging around inside you? How would it help to process these? How could your life be different if you gave yourself the space to sift through these emotions?
Here’s to being brave and tackling what’s on the inside!
Have a great week,
When I’m planning a project, I like to see it all laid out in front of me. I like creating lists, scheduling it, and then crossing it off my list – done!
There are a number of tools you can use to plan your project and keep track of where you’re up to, and cross off tasks as you get them done. These tools don’t have to be complicated software. Thankfully there are paper-based and some simple software options (with handy apps) available that you can use instead.
At a really simple level, a notebook or diary can help you track your project. You can use post-its, index cards, or pieces of paper to do the initial planning and then transfer your final list to a notebook and schedule project time into your diary.
I like writing things out because I seem to remember things better. I also like to see the schedule laid out in front of me so I can plan around potentially competing priorities. So for me, a diary of action items where I’ve allocated time works a treat. I can plan on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis all the things I have and where I need to be!
When it comes to planning steps and timelines for a specific project, I like to work with software. In the past, I’ve worked with Microsoft Office Outlook using the task list to manage ongoing events and to populate my Microsoft Outlook Calendar, and Excel to map tasks against a timeline, using the columns and rows to make a grid. Both these options enable me to see a full picture of tasks and potential timelines in a big picture. If you’re familiar with this software and don’t want to try anything new, I would suggest having a play with one or both of these to see if they suit your needs. I use Excel to map my Communications Plans, map out my subjects for my university degree, and workshop delivery plans. This way I can use colours to differentiate between aspects of the business or planning processes, which makes it easy to see where I’m up to.
Another option now available is project planning software such as Asana, Trello, Monday, or Microsoft Planner. While I’ve seen online advertisements for all of these, I’m personally most familiar with Asana as I use it for all my projects whether it’s milestones in a study course I’m completing, annual business plans, or a specific project such as developing a training course. Asana comes with an app for my iPhone which means I can track my tasks, subtasks, due dates, and also that lovely part of checking things off my list! (By the way, I’m not an affiliate for Asana – I just enjoy using it). One of my friends uses Microsoft Planner – and while she’s tried Asana says that Microsoft Planner just fits better with how her brain works. Many of these options have free trials or free plans, so why not have a play and see what works for you!
Do you have a preferred project planning tool? I’d love to hear about it and why you like it! Leave your comments in the space below.
Have a great week.
Making changes in your life can seem like an impossible dream. The idea of making change, of what to do, how to get there – and even knowing what you want can all seem too much. Where do you even start?
The way I tackle problems or goals like this – regardless of how big it might seem – is by breaking it down into steps. Still too big? Break it down into even smaller steps. Just keep breaking it down until it something you can mentally wrap your head around without hyperventilating over the enormity of it all!
When you take things step by step, your focus is purely on what you’re doing next. One thing at a time. A 6km hike starts with one step. Every single step is progress towards the end result. Just focus on the next step or goal in front of you and move towards that.
For example, when I wanted to set up my own business I had absolutely no experience in that area and no idea of how to get there. But I knew what I wanted – my seemingly impossible dream. I wrote down all the things I thought I needed to do to get there. Some of those things were simply written as research: find out about business structures, find an accountant who I could work with, research marketing avenues, find out what marketing is. What I found out during research often generated more things I needed to do, and they went on my list.
I put my list in a general timeline order and grouped like things together: research, appointments, training I could attend. Then I would do one thing every day such as book an appointment, attend an appointment, find business advice websites, read one or more business websites, borrow a book, attend training. Every day was one step in my mind towards my end goal. Every step got me closer to what I wanted to achieve. Did I have all the answers when I started? No. Did I have all the questions or steps outlined when I started? Again, no. But I started. I made a plan of what I knew and went from there: step by step by step.
What ‘impossible dream’ do you have for yourself? What do you need to do to get there? How could you break it down into smaller steps to make it manageable?
If you took one step every day, would it make a difference?
Need some help getting started? Come and see me for a coaching strategy session and we can talk about what you’d like to achieve.
Hope you have a fantastic week!
If you undertake any project in the corporate world, the first thing you need to do is make a plan. You’ve probably heard about marketing plans, communication plans, software implementation plans, strategic plans…and so many other kinds of plans. These all have one thing in common: a clearly defined outcome to achieve in the most efficient way possible. That means considering the time and resources (people and money) available, the stakeholders: who will be impacted, who else needs to know; possible risks, threats and opportunities. All this is identified and strategised before any action is taken. Why? Because if you don’t the project can fall flat on its face very quickly: over budget, no resources, people not engaged, and the goal no where near achieved. Massive fail.
So why is it any different with a personal life change? Why wouldn’t you sit down and make a plan? If you really want to achieve your end goal, the best way to start is with a plan. So where do you start with that? First of all you need to define the problem. What are you dealing with? Why isn’t it what you actually want? What would you like to change about where you are right now? You need to understand what that looks like first.
Then define your goal: where are you going? Don’t get bogged down in the how right now – that's the fastest way to find yourself going nowhere! Just put some words around where you want to go. How would you like your current experience to look, feel, sound, smell like? How would you like to feel while you’re experiencing that part of your life?
You can break down that end goal into two parts if you like:
Once you have the here and there defined you can see the gaps in between. This is where you plan comes into place. What do you need to do to get from here to there? Start by making a list of these things. Don’t worry about the order or the how – just write them down so they’re out of your head. Here’s some suggestions for things to think about:
Write down all the things you need to do – even if they seem small. Writing them down means you don’t have to keep remembering them: you can see them in front of you like jigsaw pieces and you can begin to play with them and see how they fit together.
You might like to gather a list of those things used in a corporate plan:
Once you’ve gathered all the information you can start to structure a plan. You know what you’re dealing with, where you’re going, and what you need to do to get there. Put your list in order of a timeline – what needs to happen first? What needs to happen next?
A good idea is to write things on post-it notes or pieces of paper so you can shuffle them around into an order. Once you have an order, write it out and schedule time in your calendar for each of your steps needing action.
All these steps may not be necessary for every change you implement – but the basic structure will help you put a framework in place so you can actually achieve what you set out to do. Even if you don’t know what all the steps are, you have a general idea of the direction you’re going and the who, what, when, how much involved.
Once you have a plan – don’t forget to take action! Just thinking about it doesn’t get anything done 😊
Need some help with your planning? Book yourself in for a coaching session and we can work through it together.
Have a great week!
One of the fastest ways to stop yourself achieving goals is to think about how you’re going to get there. That may seem contradictory but give me a sec to explain.
I’m all for planning. Actually, planning saves me A LOT of inefficiency because it means I can get a few things done at the same time if they fit logically together. For example, getting all the things you need from the one aisle in the supermarket while you’re there, instead of going from one end of the shop to the other because that’s the order your list is in. Or scheduling meetings on the same day so you can plan for an uninterrupted day of desk work.
Planning is great for those day to day tasks where you know what the outcome looks like. Want to go shopping? Write your list. Want to go on a trip? Plan your itinerary. Want to meet friends for lunch? Put it in your diary. Think it, plan it, do it.
But what about those bigger goals? The ones that seem bigger than you can imagine. Those that you have no idea HOW you would ever get there? Well, this is where the conflict can arrive. Because in those situations, all of a sudden, the how becomes super important in your mind. In fact, because you don’t know how you’re going to get there (now), you become convinced you’ll never know how, and therefore you won’t be able to get there and the how wins. The goal goes from being something to aim for, to a dismissed dream. Simply an idea you got excited about for a moment only to have it slip through your fingers. But it doesn’t have to.
When you have one those big, hairy ideas where you can’t imagine HOW you’re going to there – don’t think about the HOW. So, you don’t know how – so what?! Focusing on the ‘lack of how’ will only crush any momentum you ever had towards making that idea a reality. Put the how aside. Say yes to the idea. Lean into it. Give it space to breathe and grow legs.
There’s a well-known saying “If you can dream it, you can do it” – and that ‘doing it’ means a focus on the dream, not on the how. When you give that dream, that idea, space to breathe…it finds its own ‘how’.
At the start of this year, I wrote a list of things I wanted in place by 31 December 2019. I had no idea HOW any of these would happen. The how wasn’t my focus, the outcome was. Here’s a sample of how the year has gone:
If you stopped focusing on the how, and leaned into your (big, hairy) goal – what would change for you? If you find this idea to be a challenge…why is it a challenge? What’s one goal you’d really like to achieve, but you keep getting caught up in the how?
I’d love to hear from you! Let me know your experience with the ‘how’ by leaving a comment below.
Have an awesome week,
A couple of weeks ago, I outlined 5 Steps to Navigating Change. If you missed that blog – you’ll find it here.
Here are those steps again in brief (but for the detail, I’d really suggest checking out that blog!):
What I love about these 5 steps is the way they can be applied to change of any size. It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning a weekend away or moving across the country; whether you’re cooking a meal or catering for a party of 100s; whether you’re switching to a new work team or need to find a whole new job.
There are a couple of reasons I bring this up. One is the big O…for Overwhelm. When it comes to day-to-day things you might fly through your day without a trouble in the world – but the moment something happens that breaks you out of your routine and all you know – wham! Grinding halt. Overwhelm = nothing gets done and procrastination steps in.
Another reason is the voice is in your head that sends you all sorts of negative messages about your ability to cope and completely erases any memory of the success you’ve had before. Your brain can be so good at telling you all the things you don’t need to hear right now and turning that pimple of an issue into a Kosciuszko-sized problem. Which of course leads to the big O and nothing gets done.
With the 5 Steps to Navigating Change, you have a beautiful formula to apply to any change – regardless of whether it’s big or small. For small changes – just go from steps 1 to 5. For the big picture of a big change – you can also just go from 1 to 5. But to really get some traction, it’s much easier if you break that big change into smaller parts such as sections of work, or stages to be completed. Each of those sections or stages has its own set of 5 Steps. The starting point (or define here) and goal (define there) is different for each. Keeping the sections small and manageable helps you stay positive and focused towards the goal, which helps to overcome that big O.
When it comes to your next point of change, have a go at applying the 5 Steps. If the change seems too big, break it down into smaller parts and then use the 5 Steps for each. Let me know how you go!
Got questions? Comment below or send me an email at email@example.com.
Enjoy the rest of your day, and thanks for reading,
I get asked this question a bit. It seems to be a source of confusion, often because the two terms are used interchangeably…when actually they are two different things.
Any goal setting framework will tell you that a goal must be specific and measurable. The measurable part means that the goal will usually include a quantity or a timeline, or both. For example, a goal may be to do two household tasks. Or do household tasks for two hours. Or do two household tasks in two hours. Each of these examples are specific and measurable. There is a way of determining whether you’ve achieved the goal or not.
An intention on the other hand is a point of focus. While it may include a timeframe, the time is less important than the actual point of focus. For example, an intention may be to use less single use plastics this year, or to increase your energy levels, or have more time with the kids. While there are timeframes or quantities in these examples – it’s up to you to determine what this is. Having a point of focus means your mind is open to the opportunities that present themselves to make that intention happen. For example, you may become aware of all the parts of your life that use single-use plastic – and alternatives available on the market. You may become aware of when your energy is lower or higher and start to observe choices you can make to increase your energy: perhaps a dietary change, a visit to the doctor, adding a daily walk to your routine, or improving your sleep habits. The intention creates the focus, which implements increased awareness for opportunities.
Both goals and intentions are useful in creating or navigating change because they keep you on track for changing habits and introducing a new direction in your life. Some people prefer goals because they like a specific thing to work towards. Other people prefer intentions because it takes the pressure off and they still find they are productive in achieving the purpose of their intention. Some instances can use both. Your intention may be to have more time with the kids, so you might set a goal of a total of half an hour of one-on-one time with each of your kids this week. The goal is specific: you can measure it. Holding your intention of more time with the kids increases your awareness of the opportunities to grab 10 or 15 minutes where you can, or to rearrange your chores so you can max out and have a whole half-day with them!
This week, use a goal or an intention to implement change in your life. If you usually use goals, try incorporating intentions, and vice-versa. Experiment till you find what works best for you.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you went!
Have a great week and thanks for reading,
The emotional onslaught that can come with a sudden change is overwhelming. That moment, when in the blink of an eye, your world as you know it changes. Maybe you received some news. Perhaps you witnessed an event, or something happened to you. Maybe you just realised that you can’t continue your life as it has been and that something has to change: something has to go so something else can grow. And you sit, as if in a cone of silence, while the world continues around you...with no one else aware that you’re absorbing, attempting to process...to grapple at meaning...and all you can hear is a distant rumble of emotion making its way towards you. What do I do? What just happened? What happens next? Should I call someone?
These emotions can take time to process. How long it takes depends on the individual, what you experienced, and how you respond to change. In my opinion, it’s important to allow yourself to absorb and process the emotions. Some situations require safety (of yourself and/or others) to be secured first...and when you’re in a safe environment, allow those emotions to come. It may help to write, let it all out: your concerns, fears, hopes, and opportunities. In a moment, I’m going to take you through 5 Steps to Navigating Change. Writing your responses to each of these steps will help to sift through what’s happened, where you’re going, and what you’re going to do next.
These 5 steps are a road map I’ve developed for finding my way through any change. They can be used for sudden change or that evolving change that sneaks up on you until you have that ah-ha moment of realisation that ‘something has to change’. The difference between the two in terms of using these 5 steps is the time you give to actioning the steps. With sudden change you usually want to or need to move through the steps quickly to secure your environment...and then go through them again to put a more solid forward plan in place. With evolving change you’re likely to have way more time to allow your plans to unfold. Of course, these statements are generalisations – every situation is different for different people. Once you’ve tried the steps, you can put your own spin on them for the situations you experience.
Step 1: Define Here.
Firstly, write down what happened. Sometimes something seems so overwhelming we don’t fully grasp what’s just happened. When you write it down you get a better grasp on the size and parameters of what you’re dealing with. So, what happened? Who’s involved? Who does the change affect? How much time do you have to put a solution in place (if a solution is needed)?
Step 2: Define There.
Next step is to identify where you want to go. What’s the end goal you’re aiming for? Name it. If you leave it vague and just ‘want to get away from where you are’ you could end up anywhere – and perhaps in a situation ‘worse’ than where you are now. What do you want? Where are you going? Choose your destination.
If you don’t know what you want as the ‘ultimate end goal’ – then choose then next milestone you can see ahead of you. Name that. What can you aim for right now? Once you get to that milestone, your way may become clearer to the end goal, or to the next milestone after that.
Step 3.Make a plan.
This step has two parts: the external and the internal.
The external plan is for the practical to do list. What are all the practical things you need to take do move from Step 1 (where you are now) to Step 2 (where you want to go)? Do you need to make appointments? Meet someone? Prepare documents? Visit real estate? Research options online? What do you need to do?
Once you have a list of the practical things you need to do, identify the things on your list that are the most urgent through to the things that can happen later. Group them logically in ways that have meaning to you. For example, things you can do at the same time, or things that require the same level of brain attention, tasks you can do with the kids at home, things you’ll need to do by yourself when the kids are at school or with a babysitter...or asleep in bed.
Use the prioritising of tasks and grouping to put these tasks into your calendar or planner. Some tasks can be done first thing in the morning, others when you’re down the street, others when you’re watching TV and researching on your laptop or phone at the same time.
The internal plan is for the emotional processing and shifts that will have happened in the lead up to the change, at the moment of change, and in the aftermath and readjustment to world as you now know it. It’s so important to pay attention to what’s happening on the inside, just as much as the outside. Change is often messy, and it’s crazy how we’re conditioned to get back to smooth sailing (or at least the appearance of it) so quickly. Change. Has. Just. Happened. Your world may’ve just imploded, turned upside down, or been completely relocated. It’s okay to give yourself the space you need to take that in.
Unlike external planning, you can’t simply make a to do list of all that needs to be done to address the internal planning. Instead, it starts with connecting to your feelings about the change. How do you feel about it? What emotions come to the surface when you reflect on it? Don’t feel like you have to rush this. Take your time to step into the emotions and process them. But don’t pack them away forever. Suppressed emotions have a way of working their way to the surface...sometimes when you least expect it! It can help to write about your emotions such as in a journal, or speak with someone about them...someone who will listen and not judge, criticise, or feel the need to ‘fix’ them for you. If you’re looking for actual ‘steps’ to help you...start with reading a book about the change you’ve just experienced. There are many authors out there who have written about their personal experiences and can provide thoughtful direction to help others going through that experience right now.
Step 4: Take Action.
This step is so important. Many people simply make a list of things to do and stop there. If you want to move towards your end goal, you have to do something about it. Take action on the steps you wrote down. Make progress on your external and internal plans.
If you lose your place, go back over the steps. What happened? Where are you going? What do you need to do to get there? Do it.
Step 5. Acknowledge and Review.
This last step is and end point and a step you can insert anywhere throughout the four other steps.
It’s a time to acknowledge what you’ve done, the progress you’ve made (externally and internally), and celebrate wins and milestones.
It’s also a great time to review where you’re at. Your Define Here will be different to where you were. You’re in a different place, and a different headspace. Is your Define There still relevant or has your goal shifted? It’s okay if it has...it’s your goal! Are there additional steps you need to take, or steps you can drop? Do you have greater awareness of your internal processing, or do you need to ask someone for help? Are you committing to taking action, or are you resisting action for some reason? Is that something you need to work through? What about acknowledging yourself? Does that come easily, or do you brush it off and ‘get on with the work’?
Change usually happens for a reason. Even if you can’t see it at the time.
These five steps can be used over and over again, in just about any change situation. They can help to give a framework to that emotion and shock of change when it first hits, to propel you forward and on a pathway to an end goal.
Why not give them a go, and see if they work for you?
Looking for some extra help? Download the How to Stay Sane as you Navigate Change workbook available from the home page. This workbook takes you through Steps 1 and 2 in much greater detail so you can apply them to your current change experience.
Trust all is well in your world,
Life experience has taught me a lot about change - its messiness and my desire to circumnavigate it in a more efficient way. In this blog I share my experience so you too can survive change with a smile on your face!