A-Head for Success

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7 Strategies for Dealing with Overwhelm (time to read 3m)

Overwhelm StrategiesWhether overwhelm is a constant feature of your life or something which you experience from time to time, the following can help you overcome it.

These strategies came from working with a client of mine who was so overwhelmed that he was in danger of imploding.  He was managing a team of people in the service industry and just felt bombarded by demands on his time from employees, customers, his bosses, suppliers, his email and he was a slave to his smartphone.  He had become ineffective and irritable and, not only was he suffering from insomnia but he was also eating and drinking too much.

These are the strategies which bought his life back into balance which I hope will help you too:

1. Prioritise

Not everything is important or urgent. I taught him to distinguish between the ‘noise’ of demands so that he was able to deal with the urgent and important first, and leave the non-urgent, not-important last.  For more information on this technique, see the time management section of An A-Z of Business.

2. Leave it 

Some things are so not urgent or important that not doing anything about them will not have a negative impact. I taught him to ask himself “What are the consequences of leaving this, today, tomorrow, next week?”  He learned that he could safely ignore some things which came as a huge relief.  A ringing phone is an example of something which can be left.  If it is really important, the person will leave a message.  But he had, like Pavlov’s dogs, simply reacted to every ring of the phone, which meant he was often multi-tasking like the proverbial plate spinner but with much less aplomb.

3. Delegate

Because he had become very reactive he had allowed his staff to delegate upwards to him which meant that the buck stopped very much with him. I taught him how to delegate:  what to delegate, to whom and when.  This meant that he freed up a lot of time, his staff were able to take more responsibility, took more initiative (they learned that he wasn’t always going to take up the slack), and their skills were improving.  Most of them liked the fact that they were trusted in this way.

4. Reschedule

His desire to fulfil on commitments (to be admired most of the time) meant that if priorities shifted, he was under enormous pressure. He learned to reschedule tasks or meetings where other priorities came up which were more pressing.  He also learned to build contingencies into his day so he wasn’t so engulfed with commitments.

5. Saying No

He learned that saying ‘no’ did not make him a bad boss, a bad employee or a bad person. He was not the do-er of all things.  It was OK to say ‘no’ sometimes and it was not a rejection of the other person.  I taught him how to say ‘no’ without saying ‘no’ too.  For example “I would be happy to help you with that.  My time is committed at the moment and I will be free next Wednesday for an hour.”  This was saying ‘no’ to now, not the favour.

6. Setting realistic expectations

When you are racing from one emergency to another, it is easy to fall in with other people’s emergencies when they are not your own. It is also easy to provide timelines based on hope, a fair wind, and no mind to the realities of life.  This creates unnecessary pressure and is a setup for disappointment.  I taught him how to always build in contingencies to any commitments which meant that when curve balls came his way, he could navigate them with greater ease.

7. Smartphone management

It is all too easy to become a slave to your smartphone and for my client, the strategy which worked was to have times during the day where he was switched off. This enabled him to focus on what was going on and not have to react to every ping, ding and ring.  The relief was immense.  He also stopped using it as his alarm clock and left the phone downstairs when at home.

These are the main strategies which worked with this particular client.  The result?  Less stress, greater productivity, a more empowered workforce and bosses who didn’t take him for granted.  He started enjoying work again too.  I hope they work just as effectively for you.

If you would like help in your specific circumstances to manage time, stress and people, do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  Everyone’s situation is different and sometimes working through challenges with an impartial expert can be the difference which makes the difference.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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The Dangers When Motivation Blurs Perspective

Denial or TruthI usually write about performance, productivity and stress-resilience.  This article will cover the thorny subject of Denial which is a cousin to each of those.

The political turmoil at the moment has been cursed with so many twists and turns, accusations, affirmations and resignations that is has been hard to keep up.  At a time of deep unrest, what has been needed is an honest and unbiased assessment of the situation so that stability and a clear way forward can be restored.

This is true in business too - and in our personal lives for that matter.  In an excellent TED Talk, Julia Galef introduced the subject of Motivated Reasoning which she labels The Soldier Mindset.  In this, an individual will be motivated to defend their ideas, or attack the ideas of opponents.  Why shouldn't we do that?  Because in blindly doing so, we don't get an accurate picture of reality, we so doggedly stick to our position, that may take us down a path that results in regret, failure, or even disaster.

As an example, last week The Chilcot Enquiry concluded that the Iraq invasion was illegal, resulting in many needless deaths.   Tony Blair insisted he was not at fault, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  It would seem that his motivation was to forge strong links with the US, saying "I will be with you whatever."  And so, he was.

Professor of Criminology, David Wilson, has called him 'deluded' and much worse*.  Whatever your thoughts on the subject of politics, the inability to see things in their true perspective can have devastating consequences.  Denial is a coping strategy to block out the uncomfortable truth.  In the case of Blair, he downplayed his actions to make them palatable to the wider world.  I think we all have a tendency to do that, but the consequences can be detrimental.

So what is the solution?  Balancing the motivated reasoning (or Soldier Mindset) which only seeks to support your current view, with a reality mindset (which Julia calls The Scout Mindset).  This requires an ability to see things as they are, no matter how inconvenient it is, in a balanced way.  Sound judgement requires openness, humility, an ability to see the bigger picture and a strong sense of self, rather than ego.  It can be argued that only the strong can say they were wrong, don't you think?

So what has all this got to do with performance, productivity and stress-resilience?  Denial is a coping strategy for stress, usually a dysfunctional one as this article explains;  When we don't see things as they truly are, performance (the quality of your work) will, sooner or later, be affected;  When we make decisions based on non-truths, productivity (how much work you do) will be affected because you will be spending time fighting fires which didn't need to happen.

For more information on this subject, read my blogs about decision making and judgement

If you want more functional coping strategies for whatever stressful situation you find yourself in, why not book a session?  For a no obligation chat about this, call me, Tricia Woolfrey, on 0845 130 0854.

 

 

*If you are interested to read the article, here it is.

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Enjoying More Flow – The Steel

Which stress personality are you?This is the last in the series of articles which explore your personality profile to help you understand how you can enjoy more flow and less stress in your day to day life.  As this is the last article, I will also use it to serve as a summary.

What is flow?

First of all flow can be considered as that feeling where you are at your best, highly motivated, focused and productive.  Work feels like fun.  Like a top athlete, you are ‘in the zone’.

The biggest secret to having more flow

There are many ways you can be more productive.  But to have more flow, the best approach is to play to your strengths.

We can pretty much put our minds to anything we want to, but, if we are doing something which is not a natural strength to us, it takes a lot of thought and effort.  It is more stressful and you are likely to be prone to more mistakes.  Not only that, it is less likely you will enjoy it.

The Steel

In previous articles we have explored the profile of the Dynamo, The Blaze and The Tempo.  Today it is the turn of The Steel.  A Steel is very comfortable with analysis and will be great with detail.  They tend to see things in absolutes – there is a right and a wrong answer.  In this way they are likely to make great accountants or book-keepers.  They are also likely to think in terms of consequences  more than opportunities so, while this can be frustrating to those who like to rush ahead with a new idea, they are an important balance, making sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed.  They tend not to indulge in small-talk but prefer getting on with the task, great with detail but not always seeing the big picture.  They enjoy predictability and so a fast-changing, ambiguous environment can be a challenge for them.  Does this sound like you?  Or anyone you know?

The profiles in summary

Each profile has its strengths and corresponding weaknesses.  Remember that just because something is not a strength for you, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.  You just need to work harder at it.  By understanding your strengths and playing to them as much as possible in your day to day life, you can enjoy more flow.

Profile Strengths Challenges Tips
 

Dynamo

Strategy

Creativity

Goal achievement

Impatience

Can be blunt

Detail

Keep focused on main priorities and avoid too many projects at once
Recognise that not everyone can work at your speed
Work with detail people to implement your plans
Learn how to use the language of influence to communicate with the other profiles 
 

Blaze

Great with people

Communication

Variety

 

Time management

Can be disorganised

Can take a while to get to the point

 

Balance people-focus with the task you need to achieve

Set clear timelines and stick to them

 

 

Tempo

Working with systems

Analysis and detail

Implementation

Team needs

Conceptual ideas

Don’t like to be rushed

 

Work as a great support to an ideas person

Understand how your role fits into the big picture

 

 

Steel

Detailed work

Analysis

Spotting problems

 

Uncertainty

Ambiguity

Can appear negative

 

Learn to see the positives of a situation

Learn how to speak the language of the Blaze and Dynamo so you have stronger influence*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously this is a simplistic view and there are many variables of these profiles.  We are all different.  However, hopefully you have found something to help you identify your own strengths and challenges and how to work with them better.  If you would like a more personalised insight into your profile, do feel free to call me.  I can be reached on 0845 130 0854.

To your continued success.

*For more information call me as this could make a huge difference in your work and your flow

© Tricia Woolfrey 2015

 

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Enjoying More Flow – The Tempo

Which stress personlality are you?Welcome to the third in the series of how to enjoy more flow in your day to day life.  What does this mean?  When you are in your flow, you are motivated, energised, you are productive and everything seems easy to you.  The key to enjoying this is to play to your strengths as much as you possibly can.

One way of understanding your strengths is to have a profile done.  Talent Dynamics is one of several that I use and it has four main types.  Today we will look at the third type – what is called The Tempo.  But it isn’t the name that’s important, it’s the characteristics.

Of course at work it is rarely possible to have a job which only plays to your strengths.  In reality, most people find that there are parts of their job that fits you so perfectly.  It is far more likely that there are elements of your job that you dread, that may take a lot of mental energy and that take you longer to do than you think it should.  But by doing a job which plays mostly to your strengths, and managing your time so your day is not affected too much by the other tasks, you will notice your productivity increases.

So, let’s look at these strengths for the Tempo:  you are likely to be great with systems that are proven to work well.  Also good with analysis and detail you are likely to prefer working at a steady pace than being rushed into something which is not clear.  Implementation is probably something you are good at which means you would be a great support to the ideas person.  You love to have a sense of connection so working with people is likely to be important to you, as is a sense of harmony in teams.  You will probably be good at knowing how people are in the team and will want to make sure everyone is happy.  A negative environment might affect you more than the other profiles.

Because you are good with detail and dealing with the here and now, it is likely that you will not be so comfortable working conceptually.

It is worth reinforcing that just because something isn’t a strength, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.  What it does mean is that it will take a lot more focus and energy for you.  A useful tip is to set a time of day for those things when you have extra energy and focus.  It won’t seem so difficult.  It is also useful to limit the amount of time you spend on them and sandwich them in between jobs you find more enjoyable.  This keeps your energy levels high.

There is just one more profile to go in this series.  If you would like to understand your strengths better, why not call for an assessment?  I can be reached on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2015

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Enjoying More Flow – The Blaze

Which stress personality are you?So far in this series, we have looked at what flow means and we have looked at the profile of the Dynamo.  Today we are going to focus on The Blaze and what they need to do to enjoy more flow in their work life.

One of the main factors in enjoying more flow is to really understand your strengths and how to play to them.  So, as you read this article, do consider whether this profile describes you and what you need to do to create more flow.  There is no ‘best’ profile as each brings its own strengths and challenges.  By becoming more aware of what you bring to each activity and how to leverage these, you can enjoy more flow, less stress and more productivity.

It does not mean that if something is not a strength for you then you are doomed to fail in that category.  It does mean you need to be uber-conscious of what you are doing, why and how, to make sure you are being as effective as possible.  It will not flow in the same way as a natural strength, but you can become competent.  So, if you don’t identify with this profile, you might want to consider how the lack of the strengths of this profile could benefit you in your working life and how you might be able to develop some of that.

So, what is a Blaze?  The strongest characteristic of the Blaze is their sociability.  They love people and so relationships are extremely important to them.  They will be less task-focused than the Dynamo we discussed last time so may be perceived as being disorganised.  They are big communicators but this can mean that they may take a long time to get to the point which can be frustrating for those on a deadline.  They are warm people, very outgoing and enjoy excitement and variety.

However, because they will be focused on people more than tasks, it will be a challenge for them to keep to timelines.  They are at their best in a role where relationship building is important.

If you are a Blaze, in order to make those relationships work for you, do be clear about the outcome you want to achieve and keep that in your mind’s eye.  Relationships are enjoyable but at work they also need to be productive.  Never let them get in the way of you achieving business results too.  Hone your skills so that you become a strong influencer and negotiator.  Winning the hearts and minds of people is a key skill in the context of business, as long as you remember what you want to achieve.

In the next of this series of blogs I will be writing about The Tempo.  If you would like to have a profile so you can really understand yours better sooner, do contact me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2015

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Enjoying More Flow – The Dynamo

Which stress personality are youIn my last article I shared with you the general principles of flow and how to get more of it.  A big part of enjoying more flow is understanding your strengths and how to play to them.   In this article, I am going to share with you the characteristics of one particular personality type – the Dynamo - and would invite you to determine whether or not this is you.   Each type has its strengths and its challenges.  The key to flow, stress resilience and productivity is learning how to be more conscious about what you bring into each activity.  Just because something is not a particular strength, doesn’t mean you can’t do it – it just takes more thought and effort.

So, what is a Dynamo?  They are people who are highly creative, competitive, visionary and goal-driven.  They tend to be more task-focused than people-focused and are great at getting things done.  They tend to be impatient though and dislike being constrained by rules.  If you think you are a Dynamo, you are probably a great starter but need to make sure that you finish things off or have a team that will do that for you.  Otherwise you will have a lot of projects that do not have sufficient ongoing attention to have continuing benefit. 

You are likely to have great intuition and should encourage that while at the same time making sure that your ideas have a strong potential to come to fruition - there is the possibility that your ideas may mean that you start off too many things so be clear about what you want to do and why and what your priorities are.   Then set yourself a timescale and robust implementation plan with the appropriate resources to make things happen.

If you are a Dynamo your fast pace of working is likely to translate into the way you communicate.  You may be to the point, or direct.   To you, this is just an efficient way of communicating.  But to others, it may seem a little too blunt – especially if they are sensitive or more have a more social (rather than task) orientation.   It may also mean that you go too fast for some people to keep up.  This is something to be aware of as it can really hamper your results – few people can go as fast as you do.

It is useful to understand the best way to communicate and delegate to each individual you rely on so that you can get the best from them and so that they stay motivated and are clear about what is expected of them and this will vary depending on their level of skill and motivation.

Because you will tend to see the big picture, it is likely that you will not be so good with detail.  It is hard to avoid detail altogether.  If you have someone reliable to delegate the detail to, so much the better.  Otherwise, it will be a matter of finding the time in the day when you are at your most focused and do the detail then.  Missing out the detail altogether can really affect your results.

In the next of this series of blogs I will be writing about being more productive with less stress by working with your strengths.  If you would like to have a profile so you can really understand yours better sooner, do contact me on  0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2015

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How to Enjoy More Flow and Less Stress

What is flow?  It is that sense of being in the zone, where everything seems easy.  You feel empowered and in control.  You have more flow when you are playing to your strengths, because your strengths tend to be what you enjoy.

Having more flow is to experience more motivation, more energy and more fun in your work.  You are able to navigate challenging situations more easily because you have a foundation of inner resourcefulness to support you.

You make fewer mistakes too because your concentration improves.

This all means you are less stressed and more productive.

Like a top athlete in the zone, you are super-focused, super-motivated and you perform at your best.

So, what can you do to experience more flow?  Here are my tips to help you:

  1. Be clear about what you are doing and why – clarity is a prime component.
  2. Understand your priorities and avoid the trap of allowing those unimportant tasks to derail you.
  3. Make sure you are working in an environment which is free from clutter.
  4. Rid yourself of distractions – if necessary, when working on an important project, take yourself off to somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted.
  5. Keep your inbox clean – clear out old emails and create a filing system for ones you need to keep.  Only do emails at specific points in the day – that constant ‘ping’ is a distractor.
  6. Only say ‘yes’ to things you want to do and that you can commit to.
  7. Know your strengths and do work which requires them 75% of the time.
  8. Be aware of your weaknesses and either delegate work accordingly, or do those tasks first thing in the morning so you get them out of the way and can focus on what you really enjoy.  Alternatively, if the tasks seem too large, break them down into manageable pieces.

This is the first in a series of blogs I will be writing about being more productive and working to your strengths.  If you would like to have a profile so you can really understand yours better sooner, do contact me on 0345 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2015

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What’s the Difference Between a Coach, a Mentor and a Consultant?

Denial or TruthThey say that all the best people get support to get them to the top and to keep them there.  It is a sign of vision, strength, and drive to want to take your performance and productivity seriously enough to invest in yourself and your business in this way.  But how do you know what kind of support you need? 

I am often asked the difference between a coach, a mentor and a consultant.  As I use a blend of these techniques when I work with my clients, I thought I would share them with you.  Whereas there is a lot of overlap, the following is my interpretation of the differences:

What is a Coach?

Coaching assumes that you have all of the answers within you and a good coach will ask questions to elicit from you the answers you seek.  They may challenge you, uncover blind-spots and develop perspective.  You can expect to learn more about yourself and develop insights you would struggle to achieve on your own. 

A coach does not need to have more experience than you in your field of expertise as they will not provide advice.  What they will do is help you make decisions and move forwards towards a specific goal in a way which empowers you.  You may be encouraged to evaluate the options available to you prior to making a decision yourself.

Coaching tends to revolve around a particular task, goal or skill to be achieved.  Examples would be leadership skills, presentation skills, productivity.

The coach will hold you accountable and the focus is on skills development and productivity.

What is a Mentor?

A mentor, by comparison, is someone who has more experience than you in a field of expertise you wish to become more skilled at.  They will be someone to whom you will ask advice on a particular subject.

A mentor will offer more guidance and will be a sounding board for any problems.  They are a person you will turn to when things go wrong for encouragement and a listening ear.

Essentially, they will be someone you feel safe with and be able to confide in.

Mentoring is much more relationship-driven without a specific goal in mind and so tends to be long-term.  The mentor will tend to consider you in the context of your work and your personal life.

The focus is on personal development.

What is a Consultant?

A consultant has specialist expertise and will look at a problem, usually on a more systemic level.  They will do research and analysis and provide recommendations for its resolution.

The focus is on solving a specific business problem which may involve several people or departments within your organisation.

The consultant may be asked to manage the implementation of the solution for you.

The focus is on problem-solving.

In Summary

If you want to achieve a specific goal and to develop your skills, coaching is for you.  If you need support and a sounding-board and personal development, then mentoring is for you.  If you want to find the solution to a problem with an expert, then consulting is for you.  My clients like the fact that I can offer support in a way which is right for them in that moment.  Sometimes it is to offload, sometimes it is to provide an answer to a complicated problem and sometimes it is to discover skills you didn’t know you had.

If you would like to find out what would be appropriate for you, why not call me on 0845 130 08540845 130 0854 for a free telephone consultation?

© Tricia Woolfrey 2014

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A-Z of Business: X- X-Ray Vision – Know your Business Inside Out

Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone.  Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout.  This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing.  This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success.  Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference.  Productivity, not activity.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.

Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support?  Like building a house without it’s foundations.

Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?

Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices?  This is where success leads to ruin.

So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically - making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward.  The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators.  These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:

  • Turnover
  • Profit
  • Product revenues
  • Sales growth
  • Cost of sales
  • Costs
  • Performance against budget
  • Sales conversion ratio
  • New sales by marketing method
  • ROI (see individual blog about this)
  • Revenue by customer
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee performance
  • Revenue by employee
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • Customer complaints resolved
  • There are also various KPIs for:
    • Social media
    • Site engine optimisation
    • Call centre performance

Lies and statistics

A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number.  However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward.  It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else.  This is both an art and a science.  Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.

Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:

  1. Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
  2. Regularly review performance against these
  3. Look at the relationship between them
  4. Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
  5. Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action.  Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.

Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.

If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey - click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: T – Time – Achieving More in Less

Time ManagementHow do you relate to time?  Do you just see the future ahead of you, cluttered with actions and goals which threaten to suffocate you?  Are you in the present moment, having fun but not getting much done?  Are you stuck in the past with no idea how to develop the insight, motivation or courage to move forward?  Or are you able to see time as a continuum with the past, present and future laid out in front of you?

If it is the latter, it means you are more able to learn from life experiences, get things done in the present and plan for the future.

“Not all hours and minutes are the same length” as Roger Black says.  It can speed by when you are enjoying yourself, or slow down when you’re not.  While we all have the same 1440 minutes every day but how is it that some people get more done than others?

It is all down to your relationship with time, how clear you are about your priorities and how everything fits in together.  It is important to prioritise those things which move you towards your goals in an economical manner.  This combines both effectiveness and efficiency so that your productivity improves.

A productive person is calm, focused, disciplined, flexible, balanced, has perspective and, generally, does what they say they will do.  This increases your reputation with yourself and so your self-esteem enjoys a good boost too.

There are four main time enablers:

  1. Perspective:      Purpose, goals, priorities and values
  2. Self:                   Self insight, self-motivation and self-management
  3. Others:              Understanding and managing others
  4. Balance:            A balance between downtime and uptime

When you have a clear perspective, with an ability to understand and manage yourself (and those others on whom you depend to get things done – or to whom you should be delegating) and balance this with self-care, you are in a much better position to improve your time management.  You will also feel more resourceful, your productivity enemies slain.

Here are my top tips:

  1. Focus on just two important items each day – this frees up your mind-clutter and gives you a sense of achievement
  2. Fill in the spaces with smaller jobs
  3. Have a power-hour once a week where you do all those little things you don’t have time for but which make you feel really good when they are done.
  4. Whatever you are doing, apply your 100% attention to as you can only do one thing at once, contrary to popular belief.  In addition, the stop start involved in not doing this can increase the time needed for each task by as much as 5 times!
  5. Limit distractions – be ruthless but respectful about it
  6. Delegate well
  7. Manage your information overload – be super-ruthless on this one
  8. Procrastinate discriminately – some things should be procrastinated but a lot of people procrastinate the important in favour of the trivial
  9. Make your to do list a reality list and keep your fantasy (wish) list separate.  Work your list with passion and fervour
  10. Keep your workspace free from clutter to give yourself mindspace to think clearly and get things done

Getting things done should be a joy, not a chore, giving you a sense of empowerment, achievement and progress.  By following these simple steps (which I cover in detail as part of my Achieving More in Less Time workshop), you will find that your productivity soars.

If you could use some help overcoming your time-management demons, why not book a session?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey - click HERE to find out about the author.

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