Monthly Archives: March 2019

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How to stay focused on what’s most important

 

Italy…

What a beautiful country. Before I even visited it, I was seduced: the food, the wine, the history, the style, the language – what’s not to love. I’ve long harbored fantasies of speaking fluent Italian in Italy, freely conversing with Latin intensity and big hand gestures, making even the most arbitrary conversation sound like a passionate call to arms. I’ve downloaded and used two different language apps. I’ve bought and listened to half a dozen Italian language audiobooks. I’ve watched Italian movies in Italian. But I still can’t speak it. Life is busy – there’s always something getting in the way and preventing me from really progressing with my Italian language learning.But that’s precisely the point. If learning Italian was truly so important to me, it would be Italian interrupting my usual pursuits, not the other way around. That may sound obvious, but the day I admitted that to myself I was freed from a significant amount of anxiety and mental stress – not because my apparent inability to learn Italian was such a major factor in my life, but because I realized the extent to which this was a pattern in my general behavior. Like most people, I have a long list of interests and “I’d-love-to-do’s” – things that I want to achieve because they seem interesting, fun or fulfilling. Everything from learning how play the piano to walking the 88 Temples of Shikoku. Learning Italian has always been on that list, but getting honest about what is most important to me right now and into the foreseeable future helped me focus on what’s truly valuable to me.

The 21st century human is subject to unprecedented amounts of daily distraction. Managing this distraction requires conscious effort and focus – a critical part of improving productivity. By when I speak of focusing on what’s most important, I don’t only mean in the moment. I mean long term focus, the kind that keeps you committed to the most important goals in your life.

Here are 5 tips on how to do that:

  1. Get clear about what’s important

One of the pleasures of being alive in the 21st Century is that everything seems possible. The digital revolution and advent of elearning makes it possible to learn almost anything online. Our exposure to foreign cultures and tastes has been made easier and more immediate through the effects of globalization and relative reductions in the costs of travel. And if we need help achieving our goals, we can even access world-class coaching without leaving our chair. Suddenly, it seems, we can learn more, do more and see more than ever before. So, we try to do it all. We create wishlists and bucket lists and end up dispersing our attention across them: work, exercise, surf the net, spend time with friends and family, plan the next holiday, learn a language in the grocery line, play a game while waiting for the bus, dabble with guitar when we have 10 minutes free at the weekend. The trouble is we end up doing a lot, but not achieving very much, which has a negative impact on our long-term happiness and sense of self-worth. Results are only achieved with sustained focus and commitment on the things that matter, even though what matters will inevitably shift over time.

So, what’s truly important to you? My favorite system for answering this comes from über-investor Warren Buffet:

  • Write down 25 things you want to achieve on the foreseeable future. Don’t overthink it. Go with your gut.
  • Now identify the 5 most important things. These are not necessarily the most urgent.
  • Those 5 things are now your exclusive focus, not your ‘I’ll focus mainly on these and work on the other 20 in my spare time’. No. You spend all your time and attention focused on achieving these 5 goals until you’ve ticked one of them of the list, then you can add a new one in its place.
  • Regularly remind yourself of these 5 goals and why they are important to you. Keep them visible so that you see them often. Don’t just focus on WHAT achieving these goals will look like, connect to WHY you want to achieve them – what is the deeper meaning for you and your life.
  1. Get clear about what’s not important

Spend some time identifying where your extra time and attention have been wandering to. What has been pulling your focus away from achieving these goals? Be honest with yourself; if you have an illicit Candy Crush addiction, own up to it, no-one else needs to know. Do you watch TV series 5 episodes at a time? Are you hitting the snooze button every morning? Are you secretly inventing extra things to do so that you can justify skipping gym? Whatever it is, add it to the list.

This list is now a powerful weapon against distraction and procrastination. Don’t be ashamed of what’s on there – we all have our vices. Rather, use it to help you spot those times you are wavering from your top goals, and then recalibrate. Every time you do that it will become easier the next time.

  1. Stop multitasking

Despite how good you may believe you are at multitasking, it is not technically possible. The human brain is only capable of processing tasks sequentially, one after the other, not concurrently. Yes, it may feel like you’re doing 5 things at once, but you’re actually just flipping between those tasks really quickly. That flipping radically depletes your brain’s energy resources, leading to lower focus, easier distraction and less emotional stability. And, the more often you multitask the worse these effects get.

Pick a task and commit to focusing on it for a specific period of time eg. one hour, followed by a short rest before changing tasks. If you know that you have a bunch of small tasks that need your attention, then set aside specific time just for that and refocus on a single task later. Always do your most important work earlier in the day when your willpower and energy are highest. And get to know your working patterns. Come up with your best ideas at 4 in the morning or 10 at night? Keep time aside then for creative work.

  1. Get to know your anxiety

Important tasks can often raise anxiety, either because we know we’re not getting to them or, when we do commit to them, we are endlessly distracted. If left unrecognized, this anxiety can stimulate further anxiety.

Learn to anticipate these uncomfortable emotions. If possible, get curious about them, but at the very least acknowledge them, label them and know that, even though these feelings are just trying to protect you in some way, you are well and capable of achieving success.

  1. Improve focus

Easier said than done, but very possible. This actually has two parts: improving your faculty of focus and reducing distraction. Focus is like a muscle which is strengthened with regular practice, the most effective practice by far being mindfulness, which improves your ability to pay attention to what’s happening in the moment and make better choices about how to use that attention. Intelligent energy management is also key.

Distraction is constant and the only way to manage it effectively is through taking action. Have important work to do? Serious about getting it done? Silence your phone, close down email and close your door if you can. If this is difficult, start with 10 minutes at a time, with the aim of working towards one hour pockets of distraction-free work. The results will astound you.

Visit Koach.net to discover how our coaches can help you find clarity at work and at home, and can lead you to a more successful and fulfilled you.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Lindsay’s In Business: PART 66: Targeting evolution

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Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…

It seems like we’ve been going around and around on this since we started.

Correction. We havebeen going around and around on this since we started.

TARGETING.

Here’s a bit of pre-amble before I get on to this topic about a development from last month.

I’m happily partnered with an oil and gas consultancy based in London who see that great projects need effective people.  They are happy to explore diversification into this area with Mirror Mirror.  It’s so nice to have that collaboration going on. It’s like dating for ages after being single!

Anyway, we’re now talking to a couple of big companies, connecting Mirror Mirror to their business needs (and budgets), namely Quality and HSE.  Both are a priority, and both relate to communication, behaviours and shared cognition.

Specifically, on Quality, ISO 9001is a standard that certifies companies for quality. The latest update includes these components:

 “Improve Engagement of PeopleThe new standard clearly states the need for all people to be competent, empowered, and engaged in delivering value. Organizations are expected to enhance employee communication, provide better clarity on job expectations, find ways to motivate employees to contribute to organizational success, capture regular feedback, and facilitate a dialog with supervisors to help employees achieve their growth plan.”

Enhance Leadership Involvement: Unlike the earlier ISO 9001 standard, the revised version emphasizes leadership involvement in quality management. The leadership team is expected to be highly committed to strengthening the outcome of the quality management program. They need to ensure that every business unit within the organization understands and accepts the changes brought about by the new standard to ensure a unified commitment to quality.”

Mirror Mirror fits completely – what a great angle! If we win some work there, we can start talking to other people in Quality – and they would be our targets. And we are only able to think along these lines now that we have real conversations with potential clients happening around them.

Now back to targeting.

A contact of mine once said that targeting is like folding a sheet of A4 paper. Write out who you think your product / service is aimed at, starting with the whole world.  Fold the paper in half.  Write out the sentence again but be more specific.  Fold again.  Repeat until the paper is tiny.

The theory is that if you have razor sharp targeting, your can direct your marketing activities there and will be more likely to get a response.

This is how my first attempt looked about a year ago:

1.     The whole world
2.     Teams in organizations
3.     Who want to improve performance / implementation
4.     And are forward thinking / open to new ideas
5.     And going through change
6.     Who speak English as a working language
7.     And are based in Western Europe
8.     And want more help with the people side

 

My contact told me that was still WAY too general.  I can see that now.  That’s a very big target group.  But I was stuck.  And I felt bad about that, because if he’s right, my inability to target was blocking the progress of my precious business.

A stubborn question kept me from moving forward: how do you hone a target for your sales efforts when your means to new business only comes from networking, which in itself is quite random?

And then I met Patricia.  A marketing freelancer, who within one hour taught me that HOW you market is the difference between success and failure.  She said if you market on a relationship-led basis, you can’t help but target because there are only so many relationships you can develop at once.

I explained my activities: I was networking, doing social media work, some conferences and articles.  “Yes”, she said. “I’m sure that’s right, but let’s look at HOW you are doing that.”

On a small budget, online networking – from a relationship development perspective – would look like inviting 1-1 connections on LinkedIn.  Perhaps contacting them once a week, with very short notes, links to things they might find interesting.  Not selling, just being kind. And then eventually asking if they’d like to meet.

And the next area – social media work.  Yes great.  But, as Patricia explained, let’s look at HOW I’m using these. Twitter isn’t what it was 5 years ago. It’s not so effective. LinkedIn is my channel.

Write articles, post, recycle, share the links with those NEW relationships that I’m building.  Get profile at conferences that link up. Test different content, see what gets the most clicks.

Towards the end, Patricia commented that it was good to meet with me in person because then she can understand how I think.  She said I’m a structured person.

Very structured. I know this.

So structured in fact, that I have been operating like a robot. Lists, tick, efficiency, straight to the point – WHERE WAS THE ADAPTABILITY, WHERE WAS THE SENSITIVITY AND THE SOCIAL MATURITY???!  I could kick myself.  Honestly. At this age, I should know better.

I’d need to use my judgement to gauge reactions and determine which people and situations are most receptive to Mirror Mirror.  And herein lies the problem. This for me is very difficult. I totally trust my experience and intuition that anyone in a complex situation can benefit from Mirror Mirror – if they’re open to it.  Seeing that that individual people who don’t recognise the need could represent the reaction of whole market areas, doesn’t make sense to me. Whether you see the need for Mirror Mirror or not is an emotional rather than a factual response.  It’s about them, not the whole market, surely.

But not everyone is a completely independent, challenging thinker like me. As Patricia explained, there are trends, people / roles / industries / cultures that will be more receptive to Mirror Mirror than others.  No matter how ambiguous that might seem, you need to spot the trends and hone-in on the most likely buyers.

So again, who is my target?

We already know that the business is coming to the point where we have identified certain business objectives (and budgets) that give us a ‘hook’ and a need. These are HSE, quality, the agile mindset, strategic communications, and performance in general.

Patricia brought up the situation of the new manager. Wouldn’t this be a great way to onboard?  OK so we added onboarding to the list.

“Who do you want to work for?” she asked.

Reluctantly, I became specific by saying “Large organizations, because that’s where the budgets are.”

“OK”, she said. “And if you went into an organization like that to do one team, which of your business objectives fits the best?  You have to go in step by step to build trust.”

Admittedly, going in to approach strategic communication with Mirror Mirror is more of an end-game because it would be so disruptive.  We’d have to build up to that point over years.  So that was out.  And the generic ‘performance’ piece is too broad.  So even though those two business cases were the basis on which Mirror Mirror was designed, we are left with HSE, quality, agile and onboarding. And the managers / leaders of those, who would be the buyers.

Immediately my targeting becomes clearer.  I don’t need to be so precious.

1.     The whole world
2.     Leaders and managers of teams
3.     In large organizations
4.     Based in English speaking Western Europe
5.     Who want to achieve better safety / quality / agility / onboarding
6.     And are forward thinking / open to new ideas
7.     And are under pressure to get better results
8.     And interested in developing relationships with external suppliers.

I will design a structured  – and socially sensitive plan – to test that target group and hopefully get sales in the process. Even if sales is 25% about targeting, 25% about story / pitch, 25% about credibility, and 25% about timing, every detail counts.

Mirror Mirror – … because a collective focus, with each team at the centre, drives performance.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Inspiring Women’s Day Quotes:

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I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been.
William Golding, Author
I don’t like the word “sacrifice” or “compromise”. Anyone who is too into this sacrificing concept has very low self esteem because they want to be martyrs at the drop of the hat. No! Stand up for yourself!”

Sushmita Sen, Indian actress, Former Miss Universe

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re weak because you’re a woman.
Mary Kom, Indian Olympic boxer

No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.

Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced.

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel peace prize winner

 

When women put their heads together, powerful things happen

Unknown