The Procrastinator Sprite

The Procrastinator Sprite

As we approach a new change in the lockdown situation here in the UK, I have noticed lots of women on social media talking about wanting to change jobs or wanting to “do something different”.

Often the ‘conversation’ goes “I want to change, but I don’t know what I want to change to”

or “I want to change, but I’m too scared”

or even “I want to change, I know what I want to do, but can’t motivate myself to do anything about it.”

 

Sympathetic posts come in reply, but none of them hold the woman to account for not taking action, offer to help identify what she really wants to do, or give her support to overcome her fears.

 

And so, the women do nothing at all. They stay exactly the same. Stuck

 

I have a similar problem getting back into running. In the last few weeks, there have been a few ‘Memory Reminders’ from Facebook showing me running regularly a year ago. In the 12 months since I haven’t been running at all! Initially, this was due to injury. Now?

 

I’ve run through the usual excuses of ‘it’s dark, raining, cold’.

 

Except, the clocks have sprung forward so the evenings are much lighter. The rain is intermittent, and the forecasts have been pretty accurate, so I could time the run around the rain, and to be honest, the temperature has risen now after a cold early Spring.

 

Why am I avoiding it? What is holding me back? What is stopping me?

 

You know, don’t you? It’s the same reason these women on social media don’t take any action to implement the changes they want – it’s all the fault of the Procrastinator Sprite And the Procrastinator Sprite is a powerful and influential little beast.

 

He (always a he. Don’t know why?!) stops us from doing so many things, doesn’t he? I imagine him sitting on my shoulder, scoffing chocolate (the evidence is all round his mouth), saying with his mouthful “You don’t want to do that… You want to find all sorts of other distractions. You don’t want to take action, because if you do, it’ll be scary, and the change will be painful and you won’t like it and you might fail…” and so he goes on.

 

But actually, I DO WANT to go out running. I really do. And these women do want to “do something different” and they do want to “work out what different might look like”,

 

What is the solution? There’s no one size fits all certainly.

 

I personally have to dig very deep and speak very loudly to myself to stop procrastinating about getting out that door to go running.

 

You may have to do the same thing to persuade yourself to start looking for a new job or “do something different”.

 

Ask yourself three important questions to get yourself started, and once you start, you’ll be on your way:

• What is causing you to want to change jobs/careers?

• What is important to you in a job (Brainstorm this. Every idea is valid)

• How will you feel when you know you have found the right job for you? Visualise this. Write down the feelings. Be specific.

 

We all have to start somewhere

We all have to start somewhere

A friend of mine told me she recently visited her daughter’s new flat (the daughter hadn’t quite moved in yet) and sat in silence for three hours.  Three hours! There was no TV, no WIFI, no radio. Just her breathing and no other sound.  No tasks for her to complete.  She could be still. And silent. She described it as blissful.

And yet, on her return home, she felt unable to admit to her husband what she had been doing. When he queried where she had been she said,   “The flat was very dirty, so I was cleaning”.

Oh. OK.

Why did she do that? Why did it have to be a secret? She hasn’t given me an answer, but I do have my own theories.

  1. We women find it exceedingly difficult to admit we need time for ourselves.  It’s also difficult to admit that sitting and seemingly doing nothing, in silence, is actually doing something rather there doing nothing.  Does that make sense? Read it again.
  2. We are programmed to always be “doing”: ticking off items on To-Do Lists, to be looking after people, feeding them, driving children around to activities, etc, etc. our programming tells us we must be doing something.  All the time.  Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

So, when – or should I say, if – we ever get a chance to sit down, be still, in silence, doing “nothing”, we have to either keep it secret like my friend, or find some justification for it.

I wonder if we agreed to allow ourselves this time, to give ourselves permission to be quiet, and still, even for a short time, what the impact would be? I’m interested to know.

Why not try it this weekend?  If only for 5 minutes? Find somewhere quiet if you can (the loo?? Although small children will still find you there!). Sit down.  Be still. Don’t read a book. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t listen to anything. What did it feel like? Did you feel uncomfortable for taking this time out?  Guilty, even?  Or was it, as my friend said “blissful”, even for a short amount of time?

I’d love to hear if you have been able to do this.  Let me know.

Remember, 5 minutes only.  We all have to start somewhere.

Facing up to Redundancy – the 7 stages you need to know about

Facing up to Redundancy – the 7 stages you need to know about

 

This post has been prompted because there have been several announcements in the last 2 weeks about job losses across traditional media of broadcasting and print journalism. The BBC and The Guardian specifically.

I will not be telling you how to find another job. No. This is about understanding what you are feeling right now, and what you might do to feel more in control of what you are going through.  it will help you prepare for the future, whatever that may be.

Like grief, there are several – seven in this case – stages to experience when you are facing uncertainty such as losing a job.

  • DENIAL & SHOCK – you knew it was coming and that it might affect you, but it is still a shock.
  • PAIN & GUILT – why me? What did I do wrong? How could I have done things differently?
  • ANGER & BARGAINING – they are wrong. It should not be me. I do not deserve this. What can I do to make it not me?
  • DEPRESSION – there is no hope. I will not find another job within the organization. I will not find another job elsewhere. I am rubbish. I have no skills. I will never get anywhere.
  • THE UPWARD TURN – Losing my job is hard because I love it, but I need to evaluate it and work out the pros & cons to work out what I might do next.
  • RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH – I need to identify my skills and my values and work out what industry or job I might move into. It does not feel as bad as it did.
  • ACCEPTANCE & HOPE – I have a lot to offer another job. I must find it, and it may even be better than the last one.

We are all individuals and you will experience these feelings at different times to your colleagues and friends, but you are still highly likely to experience some, if not all of them.

It’s quite normal to also feel panic, uncertainty, fear particularly if you’ve worked at a company for a long time, you are passionate about what you do and you have never had to give any thought to what you might do next.

On top of this crap news, we are in uncertain times. Understanding how you are feeling can help you start the process of feeling more in control about your future. Take it one step at a time.  Look out for the different stages. Sit with each stage, acknowledge it and observe how you are feeling. You might then be able to move on. As I say, one step at a time.

 

Remember your first job? I do – and it was character building!

Remember your first job? I do – and it was character building!

I had several ‘first’ jobs.  All character building when you are between the ages of 14 – 18.

I started cleaning for my Mum’s friend on a Saturday morning when I was about 14. It was the start of learning the discipline of turning up to work regularly and on time.  The home owners were heavy smokers. Even then I couldn’t stand the smell. Regardless of how many windows I opened, the smell lingered, and penetrated my clothes. Urgh. It was my first experience of cleaning other people’s toilets too. You only have to do it once, and your respect for those who do this for a living is immeasurable.

I also worked in an old people’s care home.  I was only 16 or 17 and found it way harder than expected.  I was involved in changing beds, washing and dressing clients, emptying commodes.  It was hard physical work, but it was worse witnessing the deterioration of the residents and it was my first experience of death (apart from my pets). I never forget the look in the eyes of the lady we had to turn because her bed sores were starting to rot, despite the regular change of dressings. She could no longer speak, but her eyes said everything you needed to know – sadness, humiliation, pain.

I also cleaned my school as a teenager. It was a role you could apply for once you had reached the 6th form (Year 12 & 13 these days). I remember it was good money at that age and I took pride in my work.  We were paid by cheque every two weeks.  A cheque? Teenagers now probably wouldn’t know what that is, would they?

Then there was the washing up in the kitchen of a small restaurant.  Kitchen’s get very hot.  I worked for the Gordon Ramsey of the 1980s.  He would get SO ANGRY when food wasn’t cooked correctly (bear in mind he was doing the cooking!), staff really had to stay out of his way. I remember fresh steaks – a luxury to my family – being slammed onto the floor because he’d slightly overcooked them.  Most of the time I had my hands in the sink of hot, soapy water, head down, trying to keep out of sight and out of range of his fury.

Then I spent one summer – well, one week – working at Royal Ascot.  In the kitchens.  That previous washing up job stood me in good stead, as there was plenty of it!  Although the women and men in the Royal Enclosure were dressed to the nines, there was no glamour down below stairs.  The waste of food was appalling. Being a naïve 18-year-old I had never witnessed such beautiful food being thrown away for seemingly no reason. Some people older than me, packed it in after 48 hours. I stuck it out until the end of the seven days.  It was not an experience I repeated .

All these ‘first jobs’ were character building and stood me in good stead for future employment.  I turned up on time, was able to follow instructions, not complain (at least not on the job), be diligent (those plates and glasses had to be sparkling clean. There was no automatic dishwasher back then!). Show empathy (with the elderly residents), good manners, kindness.  You forget how important these early working experiences shape you.

Interestingly, each job in it’s own way was people orientated – and that’s where my career has remained.

What did your first jobs teach you?

 

Step out of your Comfort Zone with Confidence

Step out of your Comfort Zone with Confidence

The dictionary definition of ‘comfort zone’ is as follows:

  • a situation where one feels safe or at ease.
  • a settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.

The comfort zone is the easy path. There’s no difficulty involved in the familiar. It’s simple, straightforward, effortless.

Sometimes the comfort zone is a good thing. If your job is straightforward and generally requires little effort to carry it out successfully, but your personal life is in turmoil and chaos, then working in your comfort zone may be the best thing for you … at that moment. Occasionally, stability is the order of the day. This is positive.

However, many times we find ourselves in a comfort zone without even realising it. Life happens. You are doing a busy, demanding job, looking after elderly parents, taxiing children around, juggling fitness and family commitments. One day you stop and BANG. You find the comfort zone is well and truly established.

You feel bored, de-motivated, dull, unchallenged. Feel this for too long and you may start to doubt yourself and your own abilities. A slippery slope to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, even depression. This is the negative side of the comfort zone.

But why do we stay in our comfort zones? It’s because they are just that – comfortable. They’re like a blanket; keeping us warm and cosy. Except they’re not, are they? Not if you stay there for any length of time, as I have mentioned above.

The real sticking point for coming out of our comfort zone though is fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of being exposed, vulnerable and fear of failure. Fear of failure is particularly significant if you have had a bad experience in the past. No one wants to repeat a failure, do they? Nope. We need to try something different.

Below are seven suggestions for getting out of your comfort zone with confidence. Some are small steps, some are slightly bigger. I am sure there are more and would love to hear from you if you have others. Come and join me to continue the discussion in my private Facebook  group The Thinking Space.

  • MIX UP YOUR ROUTINE – go on give it a try. Do one small thing in your routine differently. How difficult was it to do it differently? What stopped you initially? How did you overcome that block and how did it make you feel once you had?
  • BRAINSTORM YOUR FEARS: what specifically is stopping you moving out of your comfort zone? Make a list of 3 – 5 ideas. What are you thinking when you see this list? Ask yourself for each point, IS THIS TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE? What do your answers tell you about your fears?
  • ARE YOU A PERFECTIONIST? You need to have everything perfect and in place before you can move on/do something different? Recognise that. Acknowledge it. Sit with it for a moment, then ask yourself, “what if my life or my job, right now, was good enough?” How would that make you feel to know that it was good enough?
  • CAREER STALLING? PROMOTIONS DRYING UP? Stop. Take stock. Look around you. What are successful colleagues doing to be promoted? What actions are they taking to make them visible to other people in your company. Which behaviours do you like? Could you adopt one behaviour yourself?
  • GET A MENTOR: this is someone you respect or admire but will share their experiences and problem-solving strategies with you. They’ll be objective about your career and what you might be able to do. A mentor is not a coach.
  • Say “yes” to something you’d normally say “no” to – volunteer at a school fete, agree to try a choir, do a sport you don’t normally like (this is for me – I don’t like swimming!)
  • Start a conversation with a stranger. Yes, really. Do it. Try it. You have no idea what the outcome might be – hearing a funny story, offering them a listening ear which might make their day. You never know what could happen unless you try it.

The bottom line is, whatever step you take, however small, it’s significant for getting you out of your comfort zone with confidence.

Good luck!

Stage fright & the importance of practice, practice, practice

Stage fright & the importance of practice, practice, practice

Sweaty palms?  Tightness in your chest?  Mind going blank?  If you hate presenting, this might all sound too familiar.  So familiar perhaps that you avoid doing presentations altogether.  Ouch. But avoiding the issue could be make or break for your career or that promotion you want. First of all, know this:  you are not alone.  Everyone experiences this – even the greatest public speakers do.  Don’t believe me?  Have a look at Steve Jobs and his first public TV interview. See how nervous and fidgety he is?  He’s not remembered like that now, is he?  So, how did he do it? In the course of researching this blog I conducted a totally unscientific survey of the members of my ATHENA network group & my followers on my Helen Foster Coaching Facebook page. The most common answers were:

  • The thought of it – the ‘unknown’
  • Mind going blank – “brain freeze”
  • Talking too quickly
  • Not being able to answer questions at the end

Scary stuff, but all very normal.  So, what do you do about it? I recently read a brilliant book by Carmine Gallo called “Talk like TED – The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds”.  There was great advice – be genuine, tell stories that capture the hearts & minds of your audience and timing: stick to the 18 minute rule! One crucial recommendation though was the importance of practice.  Practice.  Practice and Practice some more. The point of being scared about presentations – literally having stage fright – is that you have a fear of the unknown.  You can’t control the unknown and your instinct is to run away from it.  So, rather than focusing on that, focus on what you CAN control.  And what can you control?  You can control how much you practice. Practice is the key to everything I think.  Practice as often as you can, and then practice some more.  Gallo says that Steve Jobs used to spend hours and weeks preparing for a speech so that he eventually established himself as one of the most charismatic business leaders on the world stage.  But he only did this with practice. If you practice your presentation, you can only get more familiar with it. Get more familiar with it, and you’ll be more confident.  More confidence and self belief = better delivery. 

Think of ballet dancers – they don’t get to be so graceful by just “turning-up-on-the-night-and-winging-it”.  They practice…not for hours, or days or months – but years and years in order to become the professional creators of perfection we see on stage. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this fantastic short film from TEDEd Lessons worth sharing – The Science of Stage Fright.  At less than five minutes long, it may be the best few minutes of your day today. Finally, please have a look at an article featuring me on Psychologies.co.uk – How to be a better public speaker. Enjoy!