Make a Pancake (Or Eat an Elephant)

Make a PancakeI’m really impressed by my close friend Anne. She’s a hard working (and very present) mum, with a senior role in a full time job, who somehow manages to eek every inch out of life.

 

Over the years I have witnessed her take every opportunity to travel the world, giving her daughter wonderful experiences in many different cultures, maintain a beautiful walled garden, support her daughter’s developing interests in dancing and learning to ride a bike, play a musical instrument, and still have the energy to make amazing pancakes for breakfast. It was during a weekend visit, I had an insight into how she makes this possible.

 

It was a Sunday morning, and the usual early start for our girls, who, as many young children do, awoke with enviable energy and vitality ready to greet the day at 6.00 am.

 

Having taken the time to come round (sometime later I might add- such is the beauty of a friend who gives the rare gift of a lie in when visiting), I wrapped myself up in my dressing gown and traced the sound of the girls’ giggles to Anne’s bedroom, where she was sitting up in bed reading a story to the girls whilst supping a warm cup of tea and enjoying a cheeky chocolate biscuit.

 

‘Good mornings’ were exchanged and after reading a series of stories between us to the girls, it was time to head downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. I was just a few minutes behind Anne, but by the time I arrived downstairs, she was pouring pancake mixture into a pre heated pan; a bowl of chopped fresh fruits on the kitchen side, the kettle on and the table set ready for a feast; all with the grace and calmness that the Dalai Lama would be enviable of.

 

I can recall the moment so vividly……..How does she do that?

 

A series of searching questions later, I discovered that whilst waiting for the kettle to boil at 6am, Anne had made the batter, washed and chopped the fruit and laid everything out, before heading back up-stairs to enjoy the company of our daughters from the comfort of her bed.

 

These simple preparations for making breakfast, had given her a head start. With the preparation out of the way, she was able to speed up the delivery of food to hungry tummies (my own included which had been tempted by the alluring of the smell of the pancakes cooking), chat with her visitor and engage with both our daughters, whilst simultaneously removing the potential stress of working against the clock.

 

When I later reflected on her behaviour, I realised that this was the approach she took to life and was the reason why she was able to achieve so much. Her secret? ….she simply broke every task down into sizeable chunks, and completed them bit by bit, in much the same way one would approach Eating an Elephant!

 

To coin a Cadbury’s Crème Egg advertising phrase…How do YOU eat yours?

 

Let’s make life work!

 

April

 

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Half Hour Chunks

Half Hour ChunksI used to have a preference for finishing everything I started in a single block of time e.g. cleaning the house had to be done in one day, all the ironing had to be done in one go, the workshop I had started working on had to be designed in one sitting, the list goes on…

 

Then 4 ½ years ago, I became a mother and took 1 year out of work. It’s fair to say that with the arrival of this tiny bundle came chaos. My routines no longer worked. Time had changed shape. Life revolved around feeding, bathing and nappy changes. I tried in vain to keep up with the constant chores of laundry and cleaning whilst my beautiful baby girl napped, but tiredness was a huge barrier and I never managed to complete anything before she awoke. The result? A chaotic home and a tired, stressed out mum.

 

Then one day during a phone call to my mother… “I can’t do it all Mum” I cried, “It’s too much, the house is a mess, I’m exhausted, I can’t keep up with everything”, and she said “You’re going to have to let go of your old ways and start doing things in ½ hour blocks of time”.

 

Well this honestly threw me into a blind panic. “What, start something and leave it unfinished?!” Horrified, I ignored her advice….

 

I went back to work exhausted after a year of maternity leave, and unsurprisingly, I continued with the same approach. The result? – even more tired and stressed. Approximately 6 months in, came the realisation – my tiredness and stress were the product of my own habitual pattern of behaviour which was detrimental to my well- being, performance and productivity, and here’s how:

  • I didn’t progress with any other tasks until the task in hand was completed and so other important activities were temporarily put on hold, built up and became urgent

  • I ran myself ragged, didn’t allow myself time and space to re energise, or re fuel and so I ended up exhausted and under-performing on all levels

 

…. As if by magic my mother’s words rang in my ears…“You’re going to have to let go of your old ways and start doing things in ½ hour blocks of time”. Suddenly I realised this was the only way I was going to be able to keep all the plates spinning simultaneously.

 

I’m pleased to say, that since then, I’ve taken my mother’s advice and am successfully applying it both personally and professionally.  I have to admit to laughing out loud recently, when I discovered a video on YouTube about a time management tool called the Pomodorro technique offering the same advice… It was as if someone had overheard the conversation between my mother and I, and created a quick tutorial just to prove her point.

 

Try it for yourself, the technique just might help to make life work!

 

April

 

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Eat a Frog

Eat A FrogSo you know the story……You’ve got a whole list of tasks to complete by the end of the day, some of them more pleasant / enjoyable than others.

 

Amongst them, there’s this one task, the task that was perhaps on your list yesterday, and the day before, and maybe even the day/ week before that. The task that you really can’t bring yourself to do. The task that somehow gets relegated day in and day out by other tasks that are seemingly less daunting, boring, or erroneous.

 

It’s almost irrelevant what the task is, it could be personal such as clearing out the cupboard that spills its contents all over the floor whenever you open the door – usually at a critical time when you’re looking for something important and in a hurry; or it could be professionally related e.g. writing that strategy report or document.

 

Whatever it is, it sits there in your conscience hour after hour, day after day, week after week, niggling away at you like an irritating itch wanting to be scratched. You know it’s there, but try to avoid it by focussing on all the other important tasks that you know you need to do. And, as it sits there, the thought of doing the task, grows in your mind, culminating in it becoming increasingly more daunting, difficult and undesirable with the passing of time. All the while draining your energy and impacting your performance and productivity.

 

Until….. you procrastinate on the task for so long that eventually one of two things happens. You either:

A) get to a point where you cannot put it off any longer and so end up doing it (often to gain a real sense of satisfaction having completed it and realised that it wasn’t quite as awful as you had imagined it to be) or

B) put it off for so long that it becomes irrelevant.

 

But what if there was a different way? What if you could end this procrastination habit tomorrow? …You’ve heard the saying ‘Go to work on an egg’, well, how about you ‘Eat a Frog for Breakfast?… and get that erroneous task done  and off your list at the start of your day.

 

What’s the Frog you’re going to eat tomorrow morning?

 

Let’s make life work!

 

April

 

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Myrtle’s Mantra

Myrtle's MantraUntil recently, I would have described myself as a self-confessed perfectionist. I believed that if a job was worth doing, then it was worth doing to the highest standard.

 

I’d often find myself putting in extra hours to achieve this standard, and then once completed, I’d move on to the next task, putting in equal amounts of effort and time. I saw my behaviour as an expression of my commitment and my conscientiousness and I prided myself in producing top quality work.

 

Suddenly, my workload and responsibilities increased, and I began to struggle to meet deadlines. With a threatened decrease in my performance and productivity, I started working even longer hours, and as a consequence, my life work balance tipped. I began to experience feelings of overwhelm and noticed the arrival of physical symptoms of stress.

 

Something had to give…Either I take a long hard look at my life work balance and make necessary adjustments, or continue along this path of dis-ease.

 

And then it occurred to me, the mantra of a close friend (now retired) “Good Enough” – her stock response when things in life didn’t quite match her hopes, expectations or standards, but produced a good enough result nevertheless. Little did I know, that such a simple phrase held the seeds for a complete paradigm shift in my thinking.

 

And so I asked myself ‘How could I use Myrtle’s mantra “Good Enough” to temper my standards and expectations of myself?’….And this is what came back…. I realised that:

  • I was being driven by fear. Fear of failing to meet my own expectations and standards and therefore fear of my own judgement.

  • My 50% is other people’s 100%.

  • “Good Enough” is not the language of the lazy, but the pragmatic

  • Anything I did, would always have room for improvement

  • A highly polished piece of work doesn’t necessarily bring better results

  • I have the power to choose the standards I set for myself

 

These days I approach every task with a question ‘What would good enough look like?’ and I work back from there. This simple, yet profound adjustment has had a significant impact on my approach to my working style and energy. My performance and productivity have increased, I have a better life /work balance, and I no longer feel overwhelmed or stressed.

 

What simple adjustments could you make that would have a disproportionately positive impact on your life and work?

 

Let’s make life work!

 

April

 

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NLP Change Your State

NLP Change Your StateWhat state are you in?  Do you know how you got there?  Is it where you want to be?  And do you know how to change it?

 

To answer these questions we need to back up and rewind.

 

We are hit, and impacted on, by life events every day.  These events are big and small.  It could be the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child, finding a perfect parking space or the espresso machine being out of coffee.  All these events affect our state.  But there’s a process involved.

 

Firstly the life event is filtered by us.  We all have unique filters that are a result of our life experiences.  Our belief systems, our values, our attitudes, our memories and more.  Once the life event has got through these filters it gets processes.  We delete, distort or generalise so that we retain the experience we want and make it fit with our model of the world.

 

Once the life event has made it through this process it becomes an internal representation that we hold.  We have interpreted the event through our filters to create this representation.  We have a new baby.  Babies are here to be loved and cared for.  We have no coffee.  I cannot function for the next 12 hours.

 

This representation is what determines our state.  New baby.  I love babies.  I’m happy. No coffee.  I need coffee.  I’m grumpy and irritable so don’t talk to me.

 

The thing that most people don’t realise, or even admit when they do, is that you can choose your state.  I’m not talking about synthetic happiness and there are some things that are almost universal such as joy from children or sadness from loss.  But for all the life events in-between these extremes, our attitude to the event will determine out state.  We have far more control that we like to admit.

 

I can’t get parked close to the shop.  Great, I could do with a bit more exercise and a leg stretch.  The machine is out of coffee.  No problem, I’ve been meaning to cut back anyway.  I didn’t get the promotion I went for.  What do I need to develop in my skill set or experience for next time?  I didn’t get the dream house I was set on.  The bar is now set, let’s go find something as good or better!

 

It’s not about pretending to be happy when you’re not, or pretending not to be disappointed when you are.  It’s about choosing the reply that will serve you best and make it easier for you to respond and go forward.

 

So, what’s your state?  Did you choose it or did you just let it happen.  If you had the power (and you do!) would you choose a different state?

 

Let’s make life work!

 

Dave

 

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NLP Model Success

NLP Model SuccessI have a confession to make.  I’m addicted.  And I have no interest or intention in ending this addiction.

 

My vice of choice?  TED Talks.  If you haven’t dipped into this then start now.  Trust me, it’s so much better than playing grumpy birds, candy squash or whatever the latest mindless smartphone time stealer is.

 

Watch Amy Cuddy, watch Simon Sinek (links below) and then tell me you’re not infected and inspired by their ideas and their passion.  But this is much more than simply an exercise to lift the soul.

 

How do we improve?  The honest answer is through trial, error and effort.  But how do we know what better looks like?  NLP promotes the concept of modelling.  Simply put if you want what someone else has, do what they do.

 

And is it a simple concept, which is what makes it so powerful and so effective.  But that’s not to say it’s easy.  If you find that achieving the success or outcome you desire is a result of long hours, hard graft and sacrifice – you might decide its not for you.  But, if you have a life ambition that cannot be quenched, and the only way to attain satisfaction is to achieve it, then this will give you a route map and a model to follow.

 

It might be writing that novel, starting your own business, running a marathon or going back to university.  Whatever that ‘thing’ is that sets your soul on fire.

 

So, what is it you want?  Who has it?  How did they get it?  And what’s stopping you doing the same?

 

Let’s make life work!

 

Dave

 

 

 

 

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NLP Well Formed Outcomes

NLP Well Formed OutcomesI had a rant about New Year resolutions at the start of the year.  I have the same rant every year.  This post is kind of the second half of that rant.

 

Why do I hate resolutions?  Because they are generally meaningless, ill conceived, and every time you fail to maintain them you actually move yourself backwards.

 

So what’s the alternative?  Well, NLP tells us we shouldn’t just set goals.  The goals need to be well formed.  OK, but what does that actually mean?

 

The approach that is often used (in my opinion over used) in relation to goal setting is SMART.  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound).  These elements are all important but the key think that makes a goal well formed is our connection to the outcome.

 

When using NLP techniques to set goals we project ourselves forward.  We imagine what it will look and feel like to have achieved the goal.  We bask in the future glory.

 

We also do the reverse of this.  We project foreword and consider the thoughts and feelings if we don’t achieve the goal.  We connect with those feelings and emotions and wallow (a little) in the failure and defeat.  This makes the goal real.  It makes it more ‘well formed’ and connects us more strongly with the outcome.  We become more invested and to a large extent more motivated.

 

Try it.  What are some of the goals you want to achieve this year?  Pick one and imagine having achieved it.  What does that look like?  What does it feel like?

 

Now do the opposite.  Imagine you have failed to reach that goal.  What does that feel like?  What is the impact?

 

This is just the first stage.  You need to create an actionable plan and move yourself forward, but doing this first establishes the connection and motivation required to see you through.

 

Let’s make life work!

 

Dave

 

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NLP Rapport

NLP RapportIt was one of those friendships.  You know the kind where you haven’t seen each other for years and when you catch up it’s like you just had coffee yesterday?  It was also a dangerous one as it usually ended up in a seedy takeaway at 2am after putting the world to rights.

 

Rapport, genuine natural rapport, is an incredible thing.

 

We all have a handful of people in our lives with whom we have this.  We just click, get on effortlessly.  If you’re really lucky it’s like the telepathy between twins, you just know what the other person is thinking.  These relationships are special so when you find one, look after it.

 

But what about the flip side?  What about those people who you just can’t connect with?  They simply rub you up the wrong way, or you can’t find anything in common so you have awkward silences when it’s just the two of you?

 

It’s rapport again, only this time the lack of it.  So what can you do about it?

 

You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘if you want to understand someone walk a mile in their shoes’.  Well this is the NLP exercise that gets us there.

 

Think of a situation where you have had a lack of rapport, or worse a misunderstanding or disagreement, with someone.  Imagine you are in a room with them and an impartial observer is sitting in.  Start with your own position and explain what your thoughts and feelings are about the situation.

 

When you are done physically stand up and move to the other side of the conversation.  Now take on that position and describe your thoughts and feelings (this might take a little effort!).

 

Finally move again and take the place of the impartial observer.  Describe what they have observed from both sides of the discussion or argument.

 

This is no magic bullet, and it won’t give you instant rapport with someone, but at the very least you will develop a greater understanding of why you don’t connect.  And this gives you something to work on.

 

Let’s make life work!

 

Dave

 

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NLP Best Choices

NLP Best ChoicesHave you noticed how some people seem to delight in making life difficult?  They revel in the chance to make things harder for you than they need to be with rash, illogical and petty actions.

 

Do you know why some people act like this?  What if that was the best they could do?

 

One of the concepts that NLP puts forward is that people will always make the best choice they can with the resources they have.

 

Read that line again to let it sink in.

 

This is a really tough concept.  It seems like quite a forgiving philosophy, but in truth it’s more about understanding than forgiveness.

 

The friend that cheats you, the boss who acted like an arse, the co-worker that constantly bitches and back-stabs.  They are doing the best they can with the resources they have.  Unfortunately these resources are not exactly abundant.

 

The friend that cheats you will have a lack of faithfulness and loyalty, the boss who is domineering and inflexible lacks the ability to manage in more than one way, the co-worker who bitches has a lack of confidence and self-esteem.

 

I’m just illustrating the point here, and this may not may not hold true for everyone in these situations. But the point is that people act in a negative way because they lack the capacity to do, or be, anything better.

 

Once we accept this, and we realise that their behaviour is a reflection of them rather than a comment on us, then we can choose to react in a different way.

 

Call it being the bigger person, call it having more emotional range, call it whatever you want.  You don’t have to forgive someone who screws you over, but if you understand that their behaviour is down to a lack of capacity on their part, it makes it easier to deal with and distance yourself from the effects of their actions.

 

So, who has had a negative impact on you recently?  If you accept that their actions are a reflection of them rather than a comment on you, it makes their behaviour much easier to deal with.

 

Let’s make life work!

 

Dave 

 

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Eliminate Automate Delegate

Eliminate-Automate-DelegateI’m going to start with a question.  If you were paying someone else to do what you do (so that you didn’t have to) what would you pay for, and what would you strip out?

 

It’s an interesting concept.  If it’s your cold, hard cash on the line what would you rationalise?

 

In the 4 Hour Work Week Tim Ferris considers the question of which tasks to offload in this order, eliminate, automate and delegate.  And the order matters.

 

Why would you delegate tasks to someone, and pay them to do them, if they could be automated and trim your costs, or eliminated and save you money altogether?

 

A friend of mine used this technique to reduce his email to a trickle.  Firstly he eliminated whatever he could.  He unsubscribed from mailing lists, took himself off group emails, etc.  Then he looked at all the email enquiries he received.  He batched them into categories that could be sent standard replies and started to use them.  Once these replies were perfected he delegated responses to someone else.  The result?  He went from literally hundreds of emails a day to a handful.

 

This approach can be applied to many areas of life.  How many of us are busy being busy and not really doing much?  Or at least not doing the things that we really want to do and that we’re good at?  How many of us are mired in day to day tasks that we could release ourselves from?

 

The process is clear.  Only do what you really want or have to do.  If you can, delegate it onto someone who is better at it that you (for me it’s my tax return!).  But, remember the order.  Don’t delegate something that you could automate so that no-one needs to do it.  And don’t automate something if it doesn’t really need to be done.  If that’s the case simply eliminate the task.

 

Eliminate, Automate, Delegate.

 

Let’s make life work!

 

Dave

 

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