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Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps

Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps

Achieving success can be one of the best feelings in the world. There are tangible benefits of success such as promotions or awards, but also less obvious ones like the opportunity to grow, to stretch ourselves, and to learn. The more ambitious we are with our goals and dreams (be it running a marathon or starting our own business) the more help we need to reach them.

Professional coaches are one useful resource. They may be experts in the area of the goal we’re pursuing, like a running coach or an executive coach, or they may just be an experienced sounding board to give a different lens on our problem.

But in order to establish patterns of success and consistently achieve our goals, it’s helpful (and more convenient, and cheaper!) to adopt some self-coaching behaviours. (No, this doesn’t have to involve talking to ourselves – but it can.)

I believe it’s possible to get 80% there with 20% of the effort. To start: develop a success habit by asking yourself these questions at least once a month (or better yet, every week). Carve out an hour to sit, reflect, and write. You’ll not only achieve your goals for success faster than ever before, you’ll grow and learn while you’re doing it.

They key questions to ask yourself are…

1. What do I want to achieve?

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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This is the foundation of everything that follows. Numerous studies find that people who set goals are most successful in the long term. The brilliant thing is that you don’t have to work out all the steps to get there – at least not yet. Just identify what it is you’d like to do, and intend to do it. For instance: I want to become a successful blogger. (Bonus points if you put a date to it – eg ‘by December 31, 2014’ or ‘by end of day Tuesday’).

If you’re new to setting goals, come up with three then pick the one that feels most meaningful for you right now. Focus on this for the rest of the exercise.

See? That was easy.

Next…

2. What does success look and feel like? How will I know when I’m there?

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

This is where the magic starts – this is part of the ‘secret sauce’, the stuff we so often skip over because we underestimate how powerful it is.

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Close your eyes and visualize what ‘success’ really looks like. For instance, being a successful blogger means different things to different people. How will you know you’ve reached YOUR version of this goal? It could be that you will have achieved success when you have written 5 blog posts with 10,000 views each. Or when you get so many guest post requests you’re turning them away. Or when your blog generates $1000 per month in revenues. Whatever success means, paint a detailed picture in your mind, then write down the key elements. Otherwise you won’t know when you’ve achieved it, and you won’t be able to assess as easily if things have gone off the rails.

Now that you know where you want to go and what it will look and feel like to be there, put your brain to work immediately to determine…

3. What is the first step towards this success?

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton

Ask yourself: what’s the next step I need to take to make this happen? By when will I commit to doing this?

You may be thinking, “I don’t know how to become an uber-blogger!” The great thing is that you don’t need to know the entire path to your goal – just one step at a time. If you can map out the entire journey, great. But if not, ask “what is one action item I can take that would bring me closer to this goal?” It could be as simple as compiling your favourite blog posts and authors and assessing what it is that makes you want to read them. Or, it could be signing up for WordPress to get your own domain and blog site. Once you’ve got an idea of the next steps, get moving. Do yourself a favour and follow through on this commitment to yourself, the way you would follow through on a commitment to someone else.

But what if I can’t figure out the next step? That’s ok. There are some great hacks for overcoming resistance. Try…

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  • Talking with someone who’s already achieved the goal you set. Ask them what might be a next step.
  • Closing your eyes and picturing a future you who’s already achieved this goal. Ask this version of you ‘what would be my next step?’

Once you know what your next step will be, decide…

4. What barriers will I have to overcome to accomplish this step with success?

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” – Booker T. Washington

This is the ‘troubleshooting’ step. Undoubtedly something (or many somethings!) will come up that will get in the way of your goal. Some may not be foreseeable, but most will be. By anticipating these roadblocks upfront you can ensure you stay on track and train your brain to anticipate and problem solve. Working out these muscles will pay dividends in every aspect of your life.

A common problem: you may run out of time. Or (reverting to the blog example), you may decide that the first step is to write a post for a friend’s blog and he/she gives some extensive feedback on your writing. Anticipate the most likely barriers and visualize NOW how you will overcome each. So IF your friend sends back significant edits to your post, you’ve built in a buffer of an extra day to revise and resubmit.

Bulletproof your timelines and action plans to ensure you can leap over most hurdles that stand between you and success.

Once you’ve completed your step, ask yourself…

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5. What can I learn from this experience?

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life – and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

High achievers across sports, business, entertainment, and government share this one behaviour: they will reflect thoughtfully and detachedly on their performance and outcomes. Once you’ve achieved your step/goal, reflect and see what can be learned from your work. Some subquestions could be:

  • Did you get to the outcome you envisioned?
  • Were there challenges you didn’t expect?
  • What factors helped you?
  • Would you do anything differently if you had a ‘do over’?

Research has shown that our brains don’t actually need to ‘do’ something in order to learn – rehearsing behaviour patterns, or reflecting can be as powerful as if we’d actually had more practice, or been given the real-life opportunity for a do over.

By reflecting deliberately and learning from every situation, your can accelerate your personal and professional growth. The key for getting the most out of this is staying objective. To learn the most you need to examine from every angle with a scientist’s lens. Getting hung up on emotions or baggage will hinder your learning.

Finally, recognize that setbacks happen all the time. They’re part of life and the learning process. But the most successful people are able to ‘fail forward’, or fail in such a way that they gain valuable insight that will make them more successful next time. Being your own coach means cheering yourself on, holding yourself accountable, and sometimes, dusting yourself off! But by using this process you can set yourself up for a virtuous cycle of successes and train your brain to achieve – so that success truly does become the norm.

Featured photo credit: Paxon Woebler via flickr.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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