Research Paper By Theresa Lambert
(Transformational Coach, CANADA)
Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend. – Theophrastus
We all have the same 24-hours each day, yet how we use our time and what we do with this time is where things differentiate greatly. When it comes to time, how can you use it to achieve the maximum results most effectively?
One of the greatest insights I was ever given was the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle[i]). The belief is that 20% of what we do yields 80% of the results. So, if we believe this to be true, and personally I do, then in my words, we waste 80% of our time doing mindless tasks that pretty much lead nowhere. My High Achiever self simply can’t stand for that. I’d like to think that if we are more strategic and set the right intention, we can create an experience in which we have “spaciousness” in our life (time to just be) rather than wasting it doing nothing that leads nowhere.
After I burnt out three years into what I thought was my dream job as a Hotel GM, it pushed me to look at how I spend my time. I’m a hand’s on, learn-by-doing kind of leader. You could always find me in the trenches, helping out wherever I could. I did it because helping others and being of service to someone else gave me a sense of meaning and satisfaction. However, it also caused me to spend a lot of time on things that did not yield impactful results. Turns out working as a Coach with clients, I have seen this pattern repeat over and over. So often I hear time being used as an excuse, yet more often than not, we spend it doing things that “keep us busy” instead of making us more effective. Often the missing piece is clarity and intention.
Personally, when I started gaining clarity on the actions that created results versus the ones that did not, it allowed me to hand off items that really did not have to be done by me. In other words, delegate! This can be a powerful exploration for clients who struggle with “time management” and are seeking to be more productive. As a first step through the coaching sessions, we help the client create awareness around the things that yield results for them and the ones that do not, and then the client has the ability to make more empowering choices regarding their time. Which brings us to creating intentional action.
As a solopreneur, this same principle also allowed me to gain clarity on what I need to focus 80% of my time on as well as the things I should spend only 20% of my time on.
Whether we spend doing something or doing nothing, that time is irreversible. It’s gone for good. We can’t go back and change time which is why it is so critical that we get intentional on how we want to use our time! Think about this for a moment. How often are you doing a lot of things, yet get to the end of the day and are unsure of what you have accomplished? Have you ever worked on something just to realize later that it was not necessary? Reflecting on this can create helpful awareness that you can use to build intentional action around. But first, you must start to understand where you are spending time on things that do not yield the outcomes you are after.
The best way to manage your time is by creating a solid plan around specific goals. If we want to achieve our most important goals, we need to stop wasting time on things that do not matter and instead focus our time and effort on the things that do. The 3 steps I share in this research paper is a toolbox to help you create an Intentional practice for yourself and your clients to maximize your results in the most effective way.
Plan Your Work & Work Your Plan!
A goal without a plan is like a sailor without a compass, guaranteed to get lost at sea. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know generally where you want to go. If you don’t spend time focusing on creating a plan or a roadmap to help you get there, you will spin your wheels. It’s mindless action. This same scenario speaks true to coaching sessions without session goals, have you ever tried to coach someone without the coaching agreement in place? Did you get somewhere? Potentially yes. But it’s guaranteed to take longer, and you will experience many detours along the way, including dancing around the “thing” that really needs to be worked on.
Personally, when I am not strategic or intentional about how I am going to get from A to B, the goal will more often than not fall to the wayside and get lost along the way. I have done this time and time again especially regarding my health, I think we all have. I would commit for a short amount of time and then fall straight back into my old habits… let’s back this up with some science. Our Critter Brain also is known as the Brain Stem does not like change.
Your Brain Stem, or “Critter Brain” is in charge of the physical things: heart rate, breathing, blood sugar, and anything to do with keeping you alive. It is constantly taking a recording of your entire neural system and categorizing it in terms of risk vs safety. It’s looking for where your survival may be threatened. And it doesn’t like change or unpredictability at all because you might just wind up dead, and that would be a bad thing. It gets really set with what it knows it can survive and looks to have those same experiences over and over again. Anything new gets coded as unfamiliar (Unfamiliar = Risky = Unsafe). So, if you survived an experience once, that experience is worth repeating because you didn’t die the first time, even if that’s not an experience you actually want. And then you’ve established a pattern.” [ii]
What is needed to overcome this, is a plan to execute in a way that helps calm the Critter Brain down. We can do this by celebrating our own wins and practicing appreciation for our efforts. We have been so crammed full of other people’s “overnight” success stories and major accomplishments that we have forgotten to appreciate the small things in life. Learning to celebrate little wins in a big way and practicing appreciation is vital to creating success. It propels us to keep going because lets are honest, impact requires momentum. And momentum requires Dopamine[iii].
Yes. The best way to tap into our inner momentum is to do things that signal our brain to release the hormone “Dopamine”. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that sends signals between your neurons and your brain. Your body naturally produces it but so do activities that make us feel pleasure. It helps us to strive, focus, and generally find things interesting.
Putting this in practice, meant actually writing my goals down and dedicating time each week to work on moving these goals forward. As I wanted to achieve more balance as one of my
goals along with creating stronger boundaries, it also required me to put personal things in my calendar, such as dinner with friends, gym time, quiet time, weekends, and so on. Perhaps you think this is overkill. I don’t blame you if you do, however, for someone who feels more comfortable “doing” stuff that makes me feel productive (like work), this was my way to keep myself accountable. And I can tell you it worked every time. All of a sudden I went from confirming a meeting at the proposed time, to checking my priorities and then responding with a time that suited me better. Not once did anyone question why this wasn’t working for me. It’s a new experience that opened up all sorts of extra time in my day (surprise), I would highly recommend you try it. Now back to my friend “Dopamine”.
It’s the small wins on the long journey that we need to keep our confidence, joy, and motivation alive. ~ Brendon Burchard
When we celebrate wins tangibly (like coloring in a box on a to-do list) we can physically see that we have accomplished something. This releases Dopamine. When this happens, we in turn feel motivated. When we feel motivated, we are much more likely to keep moving towards a goal because it gives us a deep sense that we are moving in the right direction. In other words, momentum begets momentum. But it is solely contingent upon celebrating those goals. How fun is that!
Here are my top three ways to do that and you can use this approach with your clients too:
- At the end of each day, week, and month, review what you have done and ask yourself, “What’s been going well for me?”
- Draw a little empty box in front of your to-do list. As you complete tasks, color them in and take a moment to thank yourself for completing this task.
- Celebrate yourself for reaching milestones and create a ritual of some sort. This could mean that at the end of each week or month, do something that you enjoy. As a treat just for yourself, this could be as simple as buying yourself some flowers, getting a massage, or taking an extra-long walk. Whatever floats your boat!
Develop Your Listening Muscle
A huge part of building relationships is developing what I call your “listening muscle”. As Coaches, we are aware of the power of listening, however, do our clients have this same awareness, and what could open for them if they would develop this skill?
Ruth is, most of us feel chronically unheard, underappreciated, misunderstood. If you can learn to truly listen and build rapport with others, you will be so far ahead of your peers (and the general population) you won’t even believe it. And what is even better, it is simpler than you may think!
Becoming intentional around the concept of fully listening is a real game-changer. Can you recall a time when you shared a story with someone, and you felt really heard and understood? If you have ever had a good coach or a good leader, this is likely what you have experienced. So how can you practice this for yourself or help your clients develop this skill?
When learning to listen, focus on asking questions versus “fixing or teaching” the other person. When you shift into contributing “less quantity” and “more quality” to the conversation, you’re showing others that you honor the knowledge that lives within them. By listening and asking questions, you get to be the mentor, the knowledge-base, the go-to-gal, the one that shows people the power they have. In short, you get to be a natural leader. And you can use this on yourself as well, by the way, simply by listening to what you need! I promise you this is a powerful practice so start training this muscle and notice the shift this creates.
Here’s all you need to do: Talk less and listen more. Start by aiming for a 40/60 and work your way to eventually 20/80. Leaders listen. Simple as that. People love to talk, and they love to share their stories, when you learn to listen, you won’t believe how much gratitude and appreciation will come back. Not to mention insight! When we listen, we also learn to focus on what is most important. As Coaches, we know that powerful active listening involves seeing the person beyond the story and asking powerful questions as they relate to all that you heard. This allows you to move coaching sessions forward in an effective way, maximizing your client’s results in the time frame available within the session.
Break your Big Goals Down into Manageable Steps
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one~ Mark Twain
As you’ve learned earlier, starting anything new already comes with the challenge of getting buy-in from your Critter Brain. Next, you’ve got to lean into discomfort.
Who wants to be uncomfortable? Likely nobody…
Okay. I will admit it. This concept took me a while to accept because of my previous mindset, but what I realized was that the point of achieving my goal was to do it in a way that feels awesome versus not awesome. Not awesome includes things like destroying my health and sanity, relationships, and overall quality of life. So rather than aiming for quantum leaps, I needed to adjust and break complex goals into simple steps and then focus on achieving each step, one at a time. Doing this yourself and learning how to help your clients break complex goals down into manageable steps is a powerful practice and again will help you and your client become more effective in using the time to create the desired results. It is quite simple, if follow through feels hard and unclear it is unlikely clients will take action. Taking time to map out action plans through-out coaching sessions and making them feel easy for your clients is key.
So how can we do this? A method that has proven to work brilliantly well for me was to break my big goals down into 5 magic moves or milestones. From there I would focus on gaining clarity on what I needed to do that month, then that week, and then that day. This essentially means that I take a lot of small steps each day that ultimately lead me to my goal.
By doing this it is much easier to navigate the inner critic and stay focused and motivated. Moving towards your goal every day by accomplishing small tasks makes it both easier and exciting to accomplish. Let me give you a very easy example of this.
Let’s say you want to lose weight. You currently weigh 170 lbs. and you want to get down to weigh only 150 lbs. If you aim to lose all 20 lbs., in 1-2 months, it’s unlikely you will make it. Unless you go on a crash diet (which we all know doesn’t work) you’ll be bound to fail. So instead of crash dieting, let’s assume your 20 lbs. is an annual goal. This means you need to lose approximately 1.67 lbs. a month or less than 0.5 lbs. a week! If you think about losing 0.5 lbs. a week how achievable do you feel this goal is now? Quite, I’m sure!
I encourage you to think about your big goals in this way and help your clients do the same. Here are some clarifying questions:
How much do you need to break your goal down for each step to feel attainable?
What are the different steps you need to take to get there?
Then Write it out. Write it out again. And, you guessed it, one more time. Make each step so small and so achievable that you think, heck, I can do that, easy! Help your clients do the same.
By doing this you will be able to achieve your goals faster than you could have imagined. Sounds simple? Good. It’s supposed to be!
Rather than chasing after a huge unattainable dream, you now are working towards small attainable goals, taking realistic steps each day.
When you work with clients who have big goals this can be particularly helpful. When I wrote my book “Achieve with Grace: A guide to elegance and effectiveness in intense workplaces” that is exactly what I did, and my coach helped me do. Instead of thinking about everything that needs to happen, I broke it down into small manageable steps. Writing a few words every day versus writing the book overnight or over a weekend.
One last piece to consider. Breaking down your goals into small and manageable steps should feel personal. What might be attainable for you, may not be realistic daily for someone else. So work within your timeframe, your expectations, and your schedule. Don’t push your schedule onto other people as you will be disappointed, ask for consideration from others if you feel that you can’t complete something in a given timeframe. It’s not just the result that will determine your success, it’s about creating a process that is uniquely yours, and that you can enjoy and celebrate as well.
By combining these 3-simple steps using your time effectively becomes much simpler and you start to work towards creating spaciousness in your calendar and you can help your clients do the same.