I read an article by Ron Aldridge in 2001 which I have kept and love to this day. At the time, he was the Publisher of Electronic Media, and I was developing and running a mentoring program at the media company I worked for. It stopped me in my tracks, and I have used it and quoted him ever since. He talked about a sense of urgency having great job value and I said "That's it"! That is what separates the good from the great, the fun from the boring, the doers from the procrastinators. How many people do we all know who just "get by" every day? Plodding along without passion or enthusiasm for what they are doing.
I thought that it would be interesting to post an excerpt from a live interview I did recently with a Google executive. She is clearly very successful, has advanced in her career and with all of that, struggles like we all do, to manage the tsunami of information bombarding her every day. I love what her take away "strategy" is for managing it all, so I wanted to share it with you.
For well over a decade, I’ve had the good fortune to work with overwhelmed, overworked, distressed and distracted business people (some of the best minds in finance, media, real estate, you name it — resumes a mile long and multiple degrees from Ivy League schools) who tell me that they’re stuck in an endless loop of accumulation without relief; literally hundreds of people, each unique in their strengths and personalities, but all alike in their desire to succeed and fear of the obstacle course that stretches out before them day after day.
This blog is for executives. I will define executives as any business professional actively involved in working today. Unless you're living on a desert island, you’re living the reality of the distraction of modern life while trying to complete the work that’s required of you. Take one of my clients, Adam, successful, savvy VP of a five million dollar Internet startup. His career is going brilliantly. He’s risen quickly through the ranks of his company. People respect and admire him.
But under the surface, Adam is today's quintessential distracted executive. He is anxiety ridden much of the time. He sleeps with his phone and wakes several times a night; checking his email afraid that something has fallen through the cracks. His voicemail piles up incessantly, and he can hardly bear listening to his messages for fear of adding more to his already untenable to-do list.
Another challenge to Adam’s productivity is the amount of meetings he must sit through each day. After speaking with him for the first time, I quickly calculated the number of hours he spent away from his desk, and came to the conclusion that a startling 70% of his day is taken up by non-negotiable meetings. True story! These meetings are often surprisingly vital and exciting and produce amazing ideas. But when 70% of Adam’s time is taken up by meetings, it means that he has 30% of his time leftover to execute on 100%. And while Adam is at the meetings, demands are piling up. Emails, voice mails and questions from his assistant ... you get the idea. He never quite feels complete or caught up no matter how many hours he logs in. It’s easy to understand why he feels out of whack much of the time.
See if you identify:
- Do you always know that there are many things you have to do today, but you find yourself fumbling from one to the other instead of having a plan of action?
- Do you feel that things are constantly flying in all directions, and you have no clue how you'll have the time to focus and prepare for your next meeting?
- Do you find that it is really hard to get back on track once you are interrupted or distracted from the task you are working on?
- Do you avoid making to-do lists because you don't know where or when to write them?
- Does managing everyday tasks - returning emails, calls, preparing for meetings - feel like it is going to push you over the edge some days?
If you do, there is a way out! We have to stop worrying about how overwhelmed we feel, how busy we are, and how we can’t seem to find the magic potion that will add an extra hour to our workday. We have to PAUSE and consider our priorities, our struggles, and ultimately, our potential. We have to admit that we are facing challenges, and we have to harness our own strengths to meet those challenges. It is each of our responsibility individually to do something about it. Our very life depends on it.
I am committed to helping people who feel just like you!
Please reach out for a free 10 minute consultation if you are ready to not live like this anymore.
There are solutions and simple strategies that really work! Ironic as it is, sometimes pain is the best motivator of all.
Have a productive day! Coach Nancy
Following are two case studies of clients I have worked with: their challenges and solutions. See which one you identify with more closely ... if at all. A common theme: I WANT to be more successful at work, but my impulsivity is really getting in the way these days. I am constantly at odds with my co-workers and routinely get sidetracked when we attempt to manage projects together. Help!
What do I do about being impulsive, interrupting constantly and getting sidetracked?
You are not alone! One of the hallmarks of adult ADHD is impulsivity which by definition is the lack of the brain's self-inhibiting function. In today's work environment, it is exceedingly necessary to be thorough, focused, organized and interpersonally skilled. The answer is to recognize your individual challenge, accept yourself and all that is good about you, and then decide what you are going to do about it. Ultimately, of course, the less impulsive you are, the better. Easier said than done sometimes for sure.
One great strategy is to hit the PAUSE button. Stop. Literally take a breath. Think through the issue and get your facts straight before jumping in impulsively; whether it be in a meeting or in a one-on-one conversation with a co-worker.
Venture Capitalist Jack's Personal Challenge: Jack was always talking before thinking things through thoroughly...like starting a journey without knowing the destination. As a result he occasionally took his co-workers on 'rabbit hole' routes of conversation; which was becoming increasingly more challenging as part of his job was to work collaboratively with his team on presentations. He would very quickly lose their attention as they were unable to identify which of the seven ideas he mentioned was truly the most important. He struggled constantly attempting to communicate his great ideas and was clueless as far as how to advocate for himself and get what he needed.
Jack's SOLUTION: Before going into an important meeting or conversation he would set aside ten minutes to stop and ask himself: "What do I want to achieve?" Once he could pinpoint his desired outcome (the destination) he was better able to outline the ideas and points that support the desired outcome (the path to the destination). Then, when in meetings and conversations he would have both clear mental notes (and a physical sheet of paper) to use as a guide.
The Strategy: Part of his new strategy to complete the cycle where he may have been impulsive was to pause after a meeting and think about what had happened. Occasionally he felt that he either hadn't understood others or (perhaps) hadn't communicated his own points well enough. He would make a couple of notes and then ask the person for clarification. He would say something like: "I was thinking about our meeting yesterday, and realize that I don't know that I was able to convey my idea/intention effectively." This opens the door to another conversation and a chance to communicate powerfully.
The Take-Away: Before you have an important conversation or go to a meeting, stop and ask yourself “What do I want to have happen as a result of having this conversation/meeting?” Once you are clear on what your goal is ( i.e. what you want to accomplish), you can then think about what you need to say and/or ask for in order to get what you want out of it. Aside from that, give yourself permission to go back, communicate and get clarification after the fact.
Attorney/Partner Anne's Personal Challenge: Anne would often get so excited about her own ideas and plans that she would frequently interrupt her co-workers when they were speaking. They felt she didn't value their contributions to the conversation ( which couldn't be farther from the truth) and would often get annoyed and aggravated with her. This was making her feel less than professional and paranoid sometimes.
Anne's SOLUTION: Reality is, as we said, Anne would get very excited to share her ideas and often wasn't aware that interrupting might be annoying to other people who are trying to speak to her.
We started by developing a bit of a script for her to use at the beginning of conversations or meetings with her coworkers as a way of advocating for herself: "I know that I have a tendency to interrupt, and it is never my intention to be rude. Reality is that I really want to hear what you have to say, and sometimes I have a hard time processing the information as quickly as I am hearing it." Anne has found that people are generally very responsive to this approach. Her working relationships began to improve as she was honest.
The Strategy: Additionally, she began making a conscious effort to allow other people to finish their sentences and ideas. She would watch their mouth and eyes until they finished speaking and then count to three (1 - 2 - 3) before she would speak. Simple solution for a potentially big and chronic problem.
The Take-Away: Make a conscious effort to let other people finish their sentences before you start speaking. Be a good listener, be honest and remember that most of the time you will get your chance to speak in the end.
Here is the question - do you see yourself in Jack or Anne? If so, there are solutions for you too.
Productivity coaching is a collaborative and ongoing partnership focused on YOU and your ability to achieve measurable and quantifiable results; by having the tools, structure and accountability you need to get unblocked, "unfrustrated," totally focused and on track.
Do contact me if you are interested in a free 10 minute strategy session and are seriously motivated to make changes, ready to make an investment in yourself and have a clear idea of what you want to get from coaching.
Have a productive day!
Warmly, Coach Nancy