My Favorite Ways to Shift from Vacation to Work Mode

If you took any significant time off for vacation, and if you are having or anticipating a sluggish transition back to work, consider these tips:

  1. Once you’re back, stow away all vacation paraphernalia as soon as possible: suitcases, event t-shirts or souvenirs. Lingering over pictures and vacay stuff is distractible and fortifies your post-vacay malaise.
  2. If your post vacation to-do list gives you a sinking feeling, take several minutes to refresh your intention, the passion and purpose for your work.
  3. Restore your (normalized, I hope!) pre-vacation sleep and exercise routines. Challenge yourself on Monday to add on another five pushups or sit ups to your daily workout.
  4. Round up your team members and refine your goals for the next quarter. Encourage folks to share any ideas for the company that popped up in their minds while on vacation. Plan a couple affordable office events for the fall – apple picking, a picnic lunch, a Sunday brunch staff meeting at your house, etc.
  5. Detox yourself. Drink plenty of water and eat lots of greens. Alcohol, junk food and lavish desserts drag down your energy; the effects of additives, bad fats and sugar can linger in your body for many days.
  6. Think of one situation you encountered during your vacation that inspired you to greater heights in your life. Here are some examples of such moments:

• The golfing partner with the great attitude whose ball landed in every water hole or sand trap along the way, until he scored a hole-in-one at 18

• The waiter who gave you the greatest idea for enhancing customer service

• The fellow at the bar who shared a book that gave answers to a problem you’ve been dealing with for months

• The one-armed surfer and the veteran with the artificial leg who handily conquered 20 foot waves beating the normal-limbed competition “hands down.”

• The 95 year old man who stood in the hot sun at the finish line to cheer on his 85 year old college sweetheart.

Not enough solutions for you? How about a back-to-work-pick-me-up coaching session?

Contact me at [email protected]

Coaches and Consultants: Give Social Media a Back Seat

Coaches and Consultants: Give Social Media a Back SeatAre you exhausted and overwhelmed by the time and energy strategies for amassing social media followers? Have you been taken to the cleaners by social media gurus who promise   to skyrocket your exposure? I refuse to spend valuable time luring people to my mailing list with phony contests, insincere dialog, vacation pictures or funnel systems that drain me. It feels disingenuous. I don’t want to spend my time connecting with people in those ways. Do you?

I suggest a better starting point that has greater short and long term payoff  – get good, darn good, at what you do. If you’re focused on getting more exposure, a simple and targeted social media strategy can help, but I suggest you spend the majority of your resources on improving your knowledge base, reading, taking classes and applying that knowledge to your sessions with clients. Ignore the recommendations that defy your authenticity and intuition. If it feels goofy and sleazy, you’ll hate doing it and the universe will pick up on that! Instead, let stellar “word-of-mouth” reports be your goal. Show that you care more about your audience and their needs versus the number of “likes” you rack up. Collect and post feedback from those you have helped. Ask them to spread the word to their friends and colleagues. If you’ve done a good job, few will forget to tell others. Connect with your targets by being a frequent podcast guest or doing public talks. I’m not telling you to ignore having an online presence; but it’s intelligent content that will make you stand out and draw the folks you can help. Simple, meaningful and authentic engagement social media is a more sane and ethical way to build your business.

Become exceptional in your field! Let me help you create a plan for building your expertise to be one of the best in your industry. [email protected]

 

A Vacation Alternative for Entrepreneurs

As entrepreneurship becomes more widespread, I suspect that the nature of “vacations” will change. For example, for the last few years my business and my husband’s business have not allowed for regular 1-2 week vacation slots. Like many other entrepreneurs, long breaks are not feasible for us right now. To make a vacation worthwhile, you’re supposed to come back well rested and full of energy. Airport hassles, crowds, tight schedules, and money you’d rather invest in smarter ways make those expectations unlikely. Perhaps you have elderly parents or family members that may need some urgent attention, and you’ll have to be available for them. You/we are not alone. Here’s something that has been working well for us I’d like you to try.

Carve out one hour a day for a vacation break. Prepare the walking shoes, the sunhat and somewhere to go in your mind — whatever you’ll need to escape for just one hour each day. In that hour you’ll escape from the office and think about a great vacation you took or one that you hope to take one day.  Subscribe to a hard copy adventure magazine you can lose yourself in (not on your phone!)  Plan a fabulous dinner you’d like to prepare. Get on a bike and allow yourself to focus on the environment around you.  Find some simple activities, ideally with a health component, that will sweep your mind and body away for 60 minutes. Just as with meditation, when thoughts of work or projects come into mind, let them fly by like passing birds. If planned well, this kind of vacation can enhance creativity and open up pockets of energy you can instantly apply to your work. These kinds of no-hassle vacations can be tremendously satisfying.  Plus, don’t be surprised if a terrific solution you’ve been seeking pops into your head during your “time off.” You’ll be close enough to your desk to put it in motion.

Make downtime an investment in your business.  CoreFour coaching can help make this valuable time beneficial to your business. [email protected]       

Mindful Communication Newsletter July 2018

Beware of “Yes” and the Soft No’s

Listening to yourself is one of the hallmarks of a mindful listener, and the most difficult aspect to master. If you are like me, you probably say “Yes” or give a Soft No a bit too often. There are many reasons to control for the reflexive “Yes” and the Soft No’s. They steal our time away from the things we want to do and should do. We end up resenting the people we reluctantly said “Yes” to − they become the bad guys. You may have a kind heart and extend your goodness a bit too often. But if you can’t follow through, your kindness backfires and you disappoint those you intended to help. If you’re a parent, replying “Yes” or giving a Soft No when you can’t follow through makes you look weak and untrustworthy. When you say “Yes” to a work project that is well over your head and you don’t produce, you’re perceived as unreliable. We all know what “Yes” sounds like, but Soft No’s are less obvious. Soft No’s are sticky. The indecisive response can make the person who wants your “Yes” pursue you relentlessly. Here are some of the most common Soft No’s we utter:

  • I’ll think about it
  • Not right now
  • Call me in a few weeks
  • I’m too busy right now
  • I’m on vacation

My suggestion to you this month is to catch yourself before you agree directly or indirectly to requests that you’re not 100% sure about. If it’s uncomfortable for you to say “No, thank you,” practice saying it aloud several times until it is as easy as saying “Yes.”  Notice how “No, thank you,” lifts the weight of undesirable obligations, reduces resentment towards others, frees up your time, and lets you focus on what you truly want to say “Yes” to.

Did you know that the audio version of the Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction is now available at Audible.com? Start listening in a more mindful way today!

 

 

 

 

Is Your Style of Procrastination Working For You?

I bet you thought I was going to curse procrastination in this blog. Au contraire!  Not all procrastination is bad. As a matter of fact, putting off a major undertaking may give you time to consider the risks. On the other hand, you may have a style of procrastination that works very well for you. According to Mary Lamia in her book What Motivates Getting Things Done, procrastination is a problem when styles collide or when the deadlines are missed or met with unreasonable stress.

Before I talk about different styles of procrastination, let’s clarify the difference between good and bad stress. Good stress is excitement or intense curiosity, like the jitters you may experience before doing a talk. Bad stress is anxiety provoking, panicky, self-sabotaging and physiologically unhealthy for us and those around us.

Lamia distinguishes between Deadline-Driven and Task-Driven procrastination styles, DDPs and TDPs respectively. DDPs note the deadline and begin mentally planning the task in spurts without taking any overt action. They may let the idea incubate for several days and weeks. Come the last day, it all comes together. Many successful DDPs report a surge of “good stress” and a heightened state of focus within hours of the deadline. They often deliver their best work under pressure. If you’re DDP, and the fallout doesn’t take a toll on your health or the well-being of those around you, it’s a safe and effective strategy, so go with it.

TDPs will start tasks almost immediately, but not complete the tasks until later. They may be perfectionistic and postpone task completion until it meets a high level of quality. These folks have a hard time being satisfied with “good enough.” Yet the successful TDPs will manage many tasks at once and eventually meet their deadlines with a minimal amount of bad stress.

Since procrastination, the bad stress variety, is such a common complaint, I find it easier to help my clients become more efficient within a style that suits them versus trying to switch horses. It’s also good advice to share your style for meeting deadlines with co-workers and partners, as both styles can be unnerving to the non-procrastinator.

Would you like to make your style of procrastination more efficient or rid yourself of procrastination for good? Happy to help! Contact me at [email protected]        

Let Your End Users Talk

When starting your own business, it’s important to do solid market research – you must be sure you’ll have customers and lots of them. When talking with potential customers, or end users, you want to seek information about their pain points. You are researching, not selling. You must accept the possibility that your product or service idea may drastically change or disappear after these conversations, and be okay with that. Poor listening to the market is a major reason for the high failure rate of new businesses.

Last week I observed a “discovery session” for four entrepreneurs (Es) who were creating tools for adult learning.  45 older adults were invited to share their frustrations with learning. The participants were divided into four groups with one E to each group. Two of the four Es spent the hour talking more about the virtues of their product idea than listening to the needs of the group. One E threw out a series of yes/no questions, which came across as a way of corralling participants into agreeing with the E’s proposition. When a few members piped up and suggested different features, alternatives or hailed the competition, you could see these Es bristle. These Es were clearly in love with their own solutions and could not help but shift to selling mode instead of gathering unbiased and constructive information. The other two Es, however, had the right approach.  As a matter of fact, you could not tell whether these two Es even had a product idea. They sat back and let the participants vent about their struggles with learning how to use a cell phone or installing a computer. These Es asked open-ended questions  resulting in so much content that the scribes could barely keep up. In addition, these Es, not blinded by their own solutions, were intensely interested in how the participants valued existing tools.

Need help learning how to deeply listen and ask questions that put you on the path to entrepreneurial success? Contact me at [email protected]                

Sleep Deprivation and Startup Failure

Sleep deprivation and wacky sleep schedules are synonymous with entrepreneurship. It is probably the most common condition my clients report. So much so, that they consider it normal — a badge of honor. Poor sleep is just what comes with being a founder, right?  I submit that a founder who is not getting good quality sleep, not necessarily more sleep, has a lower chance of success. In my quest to get to eradicate the high failure rate of new businesses (70-90% depending on your sources), I look to the core of the problem which includes the well-being of the founder. Snap judgments, impulsive decision-making, concentration complaints and irritability are frequently signs of a founder in trouble. These are also symptoms of sleep deprivation. To make good decisions, and the rest, our prefrontal cortex (the CEO of our brain) needs to be able to inhibit the activity of emotional parts of our brain. With a good night’s sleep we experience a better balance between emotion and rational, logical thought.

A study several years ago by Matthew Walker Ph.D, author of Why We Sleep, compared brain scans of two groups of subjects – sleep deprived and well rested. He looked at the activity in a part of the brain known as the amygdala – a hot spot for triggering strong emotions. The brain scans of the sleep deprived subjects  showed a 60% amplification of emotional reactivity. The well rested group showed “a controlled, modest degree” of reactivity in the amygdala. He concluded that “without the rational control given to us each night by sleep, we’re not on a neurological –and e emotional –even keel.” Notice how more nights of good quality sleep increase your chances of staying in business!

See my article for ways to getting better sleep!

Mindful Communication Newsletter June 2018

Start Something Magical

 Have you ever tossed a stone in a pond and counted the ripples? Did you know that the ripple effect continues well beyond what the eye can see.  Inspiriting words can do the same. How often do you experience excellent customer service, someone’s cool T-shirt or a very courteous child and think, Wow, I’d love to tell them what I’m thinking right now, but you don’t? For the introverts among us, or for those who think that compliments to strangers are imposing, I urge you to reconsider. A compliment is more welcome to the recipient than you think. It is a very simple and magical way to set off a positive chain of events in the world.

I rather enjoy flexing my magical powers and seeing how a genuine compliment lights up a face. I’ll wager that my comment triggers a shot of serotonin and dopamine in the brain of the complimentee! For example, this morning I thanked a very cheery and helpful Panera server (within earshot of the manager) for his “refreshing attitude and exceptional service.” The server’s step picked up even more as he helped the next customer, and the next.

Later that day at work, I got another chance. A very quiet and sullen patient, who regularly visits oneof our psychiatrists, arrived wearing a strikingly beautiful coat. I remarked on her stunning taste and asked her how she found it. Her face lit up and stayed lit up as she entered her doctor’s office. The psychiatrist, unaware of the compliment I paid her, noticed his patient glowing and standing up straight. He couldn’t figure out why she made an appointment to increase her anti-depressant medication!

How can you create a ripple effect? Start small. Note some outstanding feature that other people seem to ignore: Thank a cop who’s guarding the bank. Give a “thumbs up” to the son helping his grandparent with a heavy load. Tell the teenager who bagged your groceries that they did an excellent job. Lifting up someone spirits makes you feel good too. The power of that compliment can transform someone for hours and perhaps days. And, like the ripple in the pond, we have no way of knowing how many other lives will be touched by that one act.

 

 

Cold Call Curiosity

Q: I avoid meeting face-to face with potential customers. I developed a very good pet care product, but I need users and feedback. The thought of traipsing from one vet’s office to another and having no-takers is daunting. I want to get more comfortable with the cold-calling process. Please help!  Ron P. Mokena, Illinois 

Cold calling can be uncomfortable, and there may be some real and unfounded reasons that discourage you from visiting potential customers. One of my favorite ways to re-frame a sales call with a high risk of rejection is to approach a cold calls as an “information gathering” visit. Assuming that you truly believe in the value and purpose of your product, here are a few ideas:

Put together a basic script: a greeting, an introduction and the problem your product can solve. Add a dose of friendliness and gratitude for their time. Practice with friends until you’re smooth.

Ask what product they are using now (you should have a good knowledge of your competition) and point out what makes your product special, more effective or easier to use. Supply proof.

Drop in on stores that would likely carry a product like yours  and ask the manager for feedback on the looks of your product. Ask what they’d do differently. They may know an expert who can enhance the look of your product. Don’t be surprised if he/she asks for a sample and a business card!

Make notes of what your potential customers had to say and learn from it. Ask, “I want to make my product better, what would make you want to give it a try?” With this approach, most folks will give you some advice. Being a seeker of information first and a salesman second may make the “jagged little pill” of cold calling easier to swallow.

For more on the subject of cold calling, check out Cold-Calling for Cowards by Jerry Hocutt.

Need help connecting with potential customers face-to-face? Contact me at [email protected]   

The Creativity of Constraint

Many of my clients are trying to start their ventures while maintaining full or part time jobs. A major complaint is finding the time to make progress towards their project. Their routine was so nice and neat before the ball wrecker of a startup came crashing in and challenged their time management skills. For a budding entrepreneur – it is now your “moment of truth.”  Do you cringe at the thought of keeping “a schedule” or being accountable for your time? I have a client who insists upon using the word “planner” because the thought of “a schedule” would constrain her spontaneity. These folks see a schedule as a tyrant, a force that denies their creativity and free-flowing nature. This must change.

Consider this: Some time constraint will make the best use of your creativity. When you block out regular chunks of time to work deeply on your project, that type of commitment will spur on a greater concentration of innovative thoughts and insights. With even small blocks of time set aside every day devoted to your project, your brainstorming will be more targeted. You will make small, but cumulative gains that amount to something tangible at the end of the week. An opened-ended “no plan” defies progress, invites distractions and draws you into the morass of Web-surfing and social media. How free-flowing will you feel when a year has passed without progress on your venture? Is it worth risking a little spontaneity to see your product or service taking shape? Create a structure that allows your true creative potential to emerge.

Do you need to be creative with time management? Would you like to be more thoughtful and productive with your time? Contact me at [email protected]   

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn