Protect your professional reputation. Why you …

Protect your professional reputation. Why you …

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What is your professional reputation? Are you known for your exceptional leadership skills or are you known as someone who can be relied on to get the job done?

Sadly too many women are being overlooked and missing out on the best opportunities because they get caught up “doing” the work.

Yes the work they do is to the highest standard but that isn’t what will get them seen, heard and valued as an effective senior leader.

The people who get paid the most, get the most interesting opportunities and receive the most recognition are not the worker bees! They are those who focus on creating effective strategies that deliver on the business objectives, drive high performing teams to deliver key KPI’s and are known for their big picture view of the business challenges.

I recently worked with Gillian, a talented, ambitious leader who had carved out a hugely successful career. But then something went wrong. Her career stalled.

Well to be honest… her career progress had not only stalled … it had actually taken a backwards step. And with it her pride, commitment and joy evaporated.

After a little digging to diagnose the problem it all came down to her professional reputation.

Even though she had a track record of being a strategic leader who could engage a diverse team to deliver on complex projects… somewhere along the way she had developed a reputation as a “doer.”

She now found her days filled with preparing contracts, tender documents and completing tasks that no-one else apparently had the skills to do. Yes she was good at these task, but they left her feeling undervalued, bored and without the time or energy to devote to the type of work that kept her challenged and motivated.

And worst of all… she found herself no longer included in the Senior Leadership Team meetings.

Even though she was reassured that she was not being demoted and she continued to get exceptional performance feedback, it was hard not to see this as a kick in the guts!

So what’s the solution? 

The good news is, it is possible to resurrect and repair your professional reputation and be seen as a leader who can truly make a difference rather than just someone who can get work done.

How to shift your professional reputation from doer to leader.

1. Get strategic. Ok ladies it’s time to get strategic! Let’s start with being strategic about what projects you get involved in. Look across your portfolio and pick one project you could devote some concentrated time and effort to over the next 3 months. The aim is to showcase what you are capable of as well as demonstrate your contribution to the business goals.

OK … I’m hearing you! Right now you’re thinking I don’t have time Jane. I’m already too busy. And there’s the problem right there. You have been busy focusing on the wrong things.

Take a look at your workload. There is bound to be something that you really don’t need to be doing or something that you could down grade your efforts in.

For all you perfectionists out there, let’s stop the need for everything to be perfect. Flex your perfectionist muscle on the likes of completing your board report and let go a little on the rest. Trust that your 80% is absolutely more than good enough.

2. Get visible. It’s time to get yourself out there and known for the great work you do. Doing great work is never enough.

I’m here to encourage you to get out from behind your desk and prioritise time to grab a coffee or lunch with people of influence within your organisation and industry. Developing and maintaining a network of strong relationships is the secret to opening up the best opportunities.

And as much as you might believe that self promotion is irksome, I know you can find a way to share the value of your work in an authentic genuine way. Being a well kept secret will not get you the recognition you deserve.

3. Get delegating. If you’re in a leadership role there is a fare chance you have a team. It’s time to bring your team on board to do some more of the doing.

I get it… it’s quicker to do it yourself! But this is taking a short term view. If you want to be seen as an effective leader you need to step away from purely doing the do and start developing the team to operate at their peek.

The short term pain that comes from slowing down the process to coach one of your team to take on more responsibility will be well worth it for months and years to come.

The damage to your professional reputation will only get worse if you choose to do nothing.

And just like Gillian, I know that you are capable of so much more. And more importantly you want more.

And that’s why I have created a brand new program called The Leadership Connection, an exclusive 6-month program for smart professional women to connect and grow in their career success.

No more going it alone. No more working in isolation.

We need more women just like you to leading not doing.

Click here for more information and to apply for your invitation to join the group.

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The conflict between productivity and creativity

The conflict between productivity and creativity

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Have you ever wondered how much easier work would be if you could supercharge your productivity and creativity?

But your to do list is getting longer and your time is getting shorter. And getting it all done seems harder than ever.   You get into the office early and you leave late. You’re working hard but to what outcome.

You’ve got a dozen tabs open on your computer and you’re doing your best to manage all the different projects you have on the go. And if it’s not your team who need a piece of you, you have senior management breathing down your neck to come up with more innovative and creative solutions.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, your brain decides to take a holiday. Why is it that at exactly the time you need to be your most productive, creative and communicate with elegance and style, you cant think straight and your brain turns to mush?

This my friend is the curse of the modern worker.

As Rahaf Harfoush shared with us at Wired For Wonder (The CBA annual conference focused on expanding thinking) we have gotten ourselves into a bit of a pickle with the way we work. Our work culture, beliefs and social norms have become outdated. In this fast paced, ever changing information age where innovation and creativity have become increasingly important, we are struggling to make it all work in harmony.

We have created a conflict between needing to be productive and needing to be creative.

If you ever feel like you are being pushed and pulled in 20 different directions with no time to think this is why.

Productivity quite simply is about getting more done and is measured based on how quickly we can do what needs to be done to achieve personal and company goals. It’s structured and is all about moving forward, fast.

Creativity on the other hand requires large stretches unstructured time to allow the ideas to flow and the solutions to come forward. It requires us to stop; to create space. We are often our most creative at times of nothingness.

Have you ever noticed that your best ideas come not while you are tied to your desk surrounded by the noise and the pressure of the office? They come while walking the dog, day dreaming in the shower or when you wake in the middle of the night?

Creativity can also be a messy, chaotic process where you take one step forward and 2 steps back. It’s within the mess and chaos that the moments of brilliance emerge.

The simple truth is, it’s nigh on impossible to be creative and productive at the same time. Productivity and creativity do not sit well together.

Our brain needs a completely different set of circumstances to be creative than it does to be productive.

So what do we do?

The volume of work is not going away and the expectation on you to be more innovative and creative is only going to increase. So let’s look at how you can do both like a pro. Let’s work smarter not harder.

Top 3 tips for managing the conflict between productivity and creativity.

1. Slow down to power up. Working at 110% all of the time will do nothing but lead to burn out. Schedule in down time throughout your day, week, month and year. You are employed to think, be creative and come up with fresh innovative ideas. You can’t do that effectively when you are plugged in 24/7 and moving at a supersonic fast pace.

 Schedule in quiet time to plan at the beginning of each week. Block out time in your diary reserved for uninterrupted creative time. Switch off your connection with the office once you get home and make sure you are taking time regularly throughout the year to completely disconnect, relax and recharge.

2. Do it in batches. Acknowledge that productivity and creativity are not a match made in heaven. Divide your work into tasks that require creativity and tasks that purely require you to get it done.

Carve out (and diarise) chunks of unstructured, uninterrupted time to work through tasks requiring creative thinking. Set different chunks of time to “sprint” through the work that purely need to get done.

Most importantly, give up trying to multi task. Stop kidding yourself that you can manage your emails and phone calls, while working on 3 different projects all at the one time. You are neither productive or creative when you do this.

3. Give up the guilt. We have been socially conditioned to value hard work and productivity over everything else. So scheduling in down time to be creative may bring up some pangs of guilt. Notice they are there but let them go. Notice the quality of your work and the brilliant ideas that come instead. You will quickly notice that the down time is actually what you need more than anything.

So the next time you find yourself wearing your struggles and sacrifice and long hours in the office like a badge of honour… stop!

It’s time we stopped idealising the notion of achieving success through working harder than ever before.   Sleep deprivation, illness and devotion to work does does not look like success from where I stand.

It’s time to focus not only on the hustle of productivity but also the quiet time to allow our creativity to flow.

(Thank you CBA Women in Focus for hosting me at Wired For Wonder.)

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How To Work Smarter Not Harder

How To Work Smarter Not Harder

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If your everyday workload regularly leaves you feeling overworked, overwhelmed and frazzled then it’s time to work smarter not harder.

We all have the same amount of time available to us but have you noticed that some people are able to get much more done while remaining calm and unflappable… but how do they do it?

It’s not by working longer and longer hours!

Yes I know that for many women, you have gotten to where you are from working hard. Putting your head down, working hard and doing great work has been the foundation of your success … but there comes a time when just working a harder is no longer enough.

I see way too many women who are exhausted and depleted from trying to maintain their high standards while keeping on top of the workload.

If this is you, it’s time to find some new ways of getting it all done.

Here are 7 habits to help you to work smarter not harder.

1.  Be intentional and focused. I am a huge advocate for the power of intentions. I know that this one small habit is the difference between achieving what is most important or getting caught up in “busy work.”

Do you know what is most important to you, your career direction and progression and what will get you noticed by those that matter?

To boost your productivity and effectiveness, make time each month and each week to review and set your focus. Get crystal clear on the biggest priorities and create space in your week to get these things done.

2.  Make quicker decisions. If you procrastinate, over analyse or get stuck seeking the opinions of every man and his dog before you make a decision … it’s time to stop!

I am not suggesting that you make snap decisions that are irrational and without consideration, but painfully slow decision making is holding your back and impacting your reputation as a leader.

3.  Say no to perfectionism. This one goes hand in hand with making quicker decisions. I get it. Like so many women you want to do your best work. You were rewarded at school and at uni for perfecting your assignments but in the working world your perfectionism is holding you back.

I see many smart women falling behind when they get into leadership roles because their perfectionist tendencies slows down delivery or they don’t even give their ideas the light of day, waiting for the ideas to be perfect.

The solution that works for many of my perfectionist clients is to set a new benchmark. Where in the past they would not see a project, report or email as complete until it was 100% perfect… the new benchmark for the majority of their work is now 80% – saving time and effort without significantly impacting the value of their work.

4. Put your needs first… and say NO. Yes ladies. I know how much you struggle with this one but this is important. Too often I see fabulous women making time for everything and everyone else, at the detriment of their own work performance and energy levels.

Next time you have a board report, strategy paper or major project that needs your concentrated time and attention block out some time in your diary to get it done… interruption free! Make an appointment with yourself .. and stick to it.

5.  Discover your productivity zone. When and where are you most productive? Is it early in the morning before the team come in or is it after dinner once the kids have gone to bed or some other time through the day?

And know your productivity is also likely to be impacted by your environment. Do you like the hum of activity around you or do you work best in a quite, uncluttered airy space?

We all have our own productivity zone. When and where is yours? I know that I do my best work before 11.00 am sitting in my favourite local café.

6.  Turn off distractions. This one really is too obvious but had to be in the list. Have you noticed that we respond like Pavlov’s dogs, reacting to the buzzing and binging of our social media, emails or phones?

And as much as we think we can multitask – we may do this better than the blokes – but still we loose our focus and concentration every time these micro interruptions come our way.

So ladies… it’s time to disconnect from your devices, even if it is just for a few hours each day.

7.  Prioritise your self care. If you want to accomplish more, make it a priority to nourish your soul, your body, and your mind. I am not exactly a pro at this one; I mess up all the time.

I do however know that if I have a super busy week then the best preparation to getting it all done is a good night sleep, time spent moving my body, good nutrition and focusing on filling my soul and clearing my mind.

 The choice is now yours!

If you are struggling to get it all done and your “to do list” is a source of stress and tension for you, choose one (or more) of these habits to slot into the way you work.

Let’s make life a little easier (and a lot more fun) by working smarter not harder!

Here are 3 Steps To Overcoming Your Habit of Perfection

1.  Recognise what your perfectionism is costing you.  Pain is a great motivator!  Identify what your perfectionist ways are costing you in terms of your career progress, your health, fun time with your family.

2.  Prioritise your most important tasks.  You most likely bring your perfection strategies to every area of you work.  In some areas of your work, your diligence and pursuit for excellence is a strength (eg: completing budgets, drafting board reports etc) while in other areas (emails to colleagues, weekly meeting agendas etc) your need for 100% is slowing you down, holding you back and quite possibly stressing you out.

Pick the top 5 tasks where your focus on detail is critical and allow yourself to pursue excellence in these priority areas.  For the rest, turn back the dial to 80 – 90%.  You may be surprised by how few people notice any difference in your effort.

3.  Set realistic Goals. “Good enough” is a term that strikes fear in most perfectionists but is a goal worth pursuing….. why? Because you are more likely to get the job done and on time! A reputation of poor productivity and failing to get work finished on time is a massive stumbling block for career progression.

Striving for high standards, of course can be beneficial.  But at some point it becomes debilitating and self-defeating.  You may feel a sense of control when you are doing things absolutely perfectly… while in fact your perfectionist ways are controlling you.  Letting go of these long held habits may take time but you will find it is well worth the effort.

Start today, by acknowledging what your perfectionist ways are costing you.

NEXT STEPS?

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10 actions to close out the year.

10 actions to close out the year.

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There is no doubt that this is a very busy time of the year. There are the projects to complete, end of year functions to attend, shopping malls to navigate and the odd family drama’s to attend to.

So I am sure that you don’t need me to add anything more to your long “to do” list.

But I am going to… because it’s time to close out the year.

It’s time to celebrate your achievements and recognise the struggles. Acknowledge and appreciate your growth and start preparing for next year. It’s time to clear the clutter, close this chapter and create space for a fresh start and fulfilling year in 2016.

Here are 10 actions to add to your “to do” list to close out the year

1. Create a “small tasks” list. We all have those pesky little jobs that are non urgent but really should be done. Make the most of this time to give yourself a deadline to get them done. You will feel satisfied and accomplished once they are finally checked off your to do list.

2. Set aside time for big picture thinking. For much of the year it is about putting your head down and just getting the job done. Use this time for some big picture thinking. Grab some texta’s and some flip paper and map out the strategy for next year. Get clear on what are the big priorities for next year and identify the outcomes you want you and your team to achieve.

Think about whether you have the right people on the team, what resources you might need and anything else you might need to consider for the strategy to be a success.

3. Have the hard conversations. If you have been putting off having a difficult conversation with one of your team, schedule it in and get it done. Performance issues don’t generally just go away. By having the conversation now you are allowing them to process the feedback over the break and return with a new and improved approach in the New Year.

4. Set up for career for success. Take some time to reflect on the year that was. Acknowledge your growth, big wins and the successful projects completed. Pause to consider where you want you career to head next year. Think about your professional development and determine what skills, knowledge or experience will aid your career progression.

5. Say thanks. Showing gratitude and appreciation goes a long way. Take the time to write a hand written note to clients, colleagues and mentors who have supported you throughout the year. Acknowledge what you appreciate … the more specific you can be, the better.

6. Write a January to do list. I love to create an action list prior to taking leave so that on my return I can hit the ground running. It also minimises the risk of important jobs falling off the radar over the break.

7. Clear your desk. I am sure that this one is not on the list just for me. I have to confess that my desk is chaos much of the time but I LOVE the sense of clarity that comes from an uncluttered desk. And don’t just stop at tidying up your desk. Plan a total clear out. Give the shredder a workout, ditching old files and fill your bin with anything that’s no longer needed. It is time to purge the old to allow space for the new.

8. Empty your inbox. Next it’s time to tackle your inbox. For me this is going to be a big job with 1856 emails currently sitting in my inbox (ouch!) Yes they are all read – but now need to be deleted or filed.

And while you are at it, take a look at your electronic filing system. Now’s the time to archive, reorganise and tidy up!

9. Set your out of office message. You are almost there. Identify back up plans and who will manage queries in your absence. And then walk out the door, slip into a holiday frock and sit back with an ice cold drink.

10. Unwind, recharge, refresh! NOW… the most important step of all. Disconnect! If at all possible make a commitment to unplug, switch off and go technology free. Take this time to fully let go, unwind and recharge. Be present with your family and allow the busyness to subside. It’s time for you fill your cup and allow your mind to be still. Enjoy.

NEXT STEPS?

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Jane Benston

How to maintain your leadership mojo …

How to maintain your leadership mojo …

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Got too much on your plate? Feeling overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out?

You are definitely not alone. In our busy world of multiple demands.. at work and at home.. life can get a little hectic at times. And then if we throw in some work travel, extra commitments outside hours or some tight deadlines we can sometimes push it too far and we can loose our leadership Mojo.

To make matters worse, we women too often put the needs of everyone else before our own. We say yes to that extra commitment, work our butt off to get things “perfect” and “right” or take care of what needs to be done because no one else seems to doing it.

We put everything and everyone ahead of our own needs.

Doing your best work, remaining productive and focused, keeping your mood and emotions in check; these are all vitally important to any leader. To achieve this we need to feel fresh, energised and on our game….. not stressed out and tied!

My question today is “What are you doing to take care of you?”

What are you doing to allow your brilliant best to shine every day at work, even when things get a little busy?

We all know what we should be doing… but are we doing it?

These are questions I have had to ask of myself more than once over the past couple of months with an increasingly busy schedule involving plenty of interstate travel. Early morning flights, long days of workshop facilitation and living out of a suitcase can really disrupt my regular routines.

Too often when we get busy the first thing we drop off the to do list is our self care. But it is exactly these times when maintaining our self care rituals and routines are most important.

Here are my personal rules for maintaining my leadership mojo even when things get busy.

1. Keep moving. Ok… you don’t need me to tell you that exercise is important. It is important for our health and it is also important for our brain function to maximize our productivity, our creativity and our general mood. No one likes a grump around the office!

With my busy schedule I like to have options. When the weather is fine there is nothing better than an early morning walk to get me set up for a productive day.  But the thing that has made the biggest difference to me this year in a regular Pilates and Yoga practise.   Have you tried CLASSPASS to access thousands of different classes at studios and gyms in your city and around the world.  I LOVE it.  It gives my such choice and flexibility and is perfect for my busy lifestyle

When we get busy it is all about keeping it simple, having options and be ok that doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

2. Quality refuelling. If you put poor quality fuel in a racing car it doesn’t go to well. We are the same. We can’t expect our mind and bodies to perform at their best if we don’t pay them the respect with high quality fuel.

This is about quality whole foods. But of equal importance is keeping hydrated. I had let this one slip over the last couple of months. The easiest solution for this is to always have a water bottle on hand or my personal favourite of late… a jug of water infused with mint and lemon. Yum!

3. Still the mind. There is now proof, thanks to recent research, that meditation and the powerful state of “mindfulness” is good for our leadership. Not that I need proof. Intuitively I know that when I make time for even 10 minutes of meditation I feel calmer and my thinking expands allowing ideas to flow, creative solutions to appear and projects to be completed without quite so much effort.

If you are looking to get started with a little guided meditation I can recommend the Deepak and Oprah 21 day meditation experience.

4. Say NO. Learn the art of not automatically saying yes to every request. How often have you said yes to something, only to later wonder why you did or worse still, feel resentful and trapped into doing something you don’t want to do or is not your responsibility? Instead, take you time. Think it through and only commit to those things that are part of your job, of real interest to you or will help you to achieve your career goals.

5. Schedule me time. Ladies…. I know that many of us are hard wired to put others before ourselves. However if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can all too easily end up feeling depleted, burnt out and exhausted. And when this happens we end up with nothing left to give anyone.

NEXT STEPS?

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The 80/20 Rule: Stop Wasting Your Time

The 80/20 Rule: Stop Wasting Your Time

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In a world where the most valuable commodity we have is TIME, finding ways to maximise our results with less effort is paramount to our success and sanity.   We seem to be in a constant battle to “get it all done” while struggling against distractions, putting out the spot fires and completing low value busy work that can chew up most of the day.

I am all for finding ways of working smarter not harder… and embracing the 80/20 Rule is one of those ways.

The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. I think we know this instinctively. There are days that we get stuck in the busy work and make very little progress on the things that are going to make a difference. And then there are days when we focus our energy and efforts on the big ticket projects that will have a real impact on results of the team and the business.

It is on those days when you focus on what will really make a difference, that you will get seen, heard and applauded.  It is on those days that you will get flagged as someone who deserves the next big opportunities. It is because of those days, that you will get recognised for what you are truly capable of.

And all too often when work gets busy I see women working harder and longer hours, when really a better solution would be to pause and identify where to target their efforts. Great results more often come from working smarter not harder.

I wonder, are you focusing on the tasks that will produce the biggest results?

Here are my top 5 ways to put the 80/20 Rule to work for you.

1.  Know your core work.   At the heart of the 80/20 Rule is understanding what is the core of your role. By using the 80/20 Rule we can identify the most impactful tasks and understand where to focus our time and energy.

It is all about clarifying those activities and tasks that will get you the best results with the least amount of time and effort. Learning to recognise and then focus on the 20% high return activities is the key to making the most effective use your time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you to identify the core of your work.

  • What have you been employed to deliver?
  • What are the key outcomes expected of you?
  • What are the few things if done well will mean that you are doing your job well?
  • What are the numbers/KPI’s that matter most?
  • Which aspect of your role does your boss focus on?

Once you know the answer to these questions you will be clearer on where to prioritise your efforts and what things you must never drop the ball on.

2.  Let go of the less important. So for all the perfectionists out there, this may be a bit challenging. But sometimes we just have too much on the plate to do it all. It is time to give up trying to do it all and focus on 20% of tasks that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck and only tackling the rest once the big ticket items are taken care of.

3.  Learn to say NO. Your value comes from doing your core work… and doing it well. If you get caught up saying YES to EVERY project or fiddly job that comes along, then you will never have the time or energy to do the work that will really make a difference.

4.  Protect Against Distraction. The modern world is filled with distractions with beeping smart phones, Facebook messages, emails that ping even in the middle of the night and people wanting a piece of you at every turn.

To be more productive and focus in on the important tasks we must learn to interrupt the interruptions. We must build a fortress around ourselves and carve out some sacred space for creative thinking and high productivity.

I do this by taking myself to a local café where I DON’T have internet access. It is here that I can focus in on the core activities that will make the biggest difference without the distractions of all things digital.

What can you do to reduce the distractions?

5.  Time slots and Batching. Everyone has a time slot in their day when they do their finest work. Do you know when yours is? Mine is definitely before midday so I schedule a couple of morning blocks of time each week, keeping these reserved for writing, creative and strategic work.

Consider batching the “mindless” busy jobs (eg: responding to simple emails, phone calls) or less intense meetings for your less productive times of the day and reserving chunks of time in your diary for your core work. And YES you will need to schedule it into your diary. If it is not in the diary, generally it doesn’t happen.

Applying the 80/20 Rule is not only about productivity and effectiveness. It is an effect way to maintain your sanity in this crazy busy world and get you recognised for your ability to get extraordinary outcomes. Lets commit to taking the time to recognise what is giving us 80% of our results and focus our attention on that.

NEXT STEPS?

If you like what you have read, Click HERE  and pop your name and email into the boxes and come join this growing community of extraordinary, passionate, down to earth women just like you who are committed to finding their place at the leadership table.

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7 Simple Ways To Supercharge Your …

7 Simple Ways To Supercharge Your …

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Innovation, creative thinking and problems solving is becoming an increasingly important skill for all leaders to foster.   Organisations are hungry for employees who can see things from a new perspective, solve long-standing problems with simple changes and really drive progress within the business.

Being able to think creatively, solve problems and create new and innovative ideas will have you stand out in the crowd and put you in a powerful position.

I once thought that I wasn’t creative, able to think strategically or to come up with innovative ideas. I now recognise that actually I am … I just hadn’t nurtured these skills or learnt how to create the best environments for me to allow my creative juices to run free.

 

Here are 7 surprisingly simple ways to supercharge your creativity.

1.  Create thinking time. It is nigh on impossible to be creativity let alone productive when we are surrounded by distraction or you are on high alert for the detractions that are likely to come your way.

Put aside a chunk of time in your calendar each week dedicated for work that requires clear thinking or creatively such are specific project work, big picture planning or nutting out a problem.   Turn off your phone, shut down your emails and shut your office door if you are lucky enough to have one.

2.  Manage your mood. Research has found that we do our best creative work when we feel positive. We tend to be bolder and more focused on solutions and what is possible when we feel good. So think about what gets you in a positive mood? Is it heading out for a quick coffee with colleagues, is it meditating in the mornings before work or hitting the gym?

3.  Find your creative space. One leader I was working with some years ago was struggling to come up with a business strategy that was innovative or inspiring. She felt bogged down and void of new ideas. Not surprising really… she was working in a classified area of the Defence Force requiring her to conduct all her work in a windowless bunker!

Our work environment plays a huge part in our creativity. All my best creative work is done sitting in one of my favourite café’s. Yes the coffee is good but I think it is the ambient noise and the hustle and bustle around me that allows me to focus, create and come up with new ideas.

I wonder where your creative space is? Is it a café, sitting on a park bench or your kitchen bench after the kids have gone to bed? Wherever it is … plan to spend more time there. Not only will it be good for your creativity, you will also see your productivity take off.

4.  Get exercising. We know exercise is good for us for lots of reasons and here’s another … studies have shown that exercise can improve our ability to think creatively.

I love the way it’s explained in this Psychology Today article:

“Sweat is like WD-40 for your mind—it lubricates the rusty hinges of your brain and makes your thinking more fluid. Exercise allows your conscious mind to access fresh ideas that are buried in the subconscious.”

So … head out for a walk at lunch time to clear the mind and expand your thinking. On countless occasions I have been mulling over a problem all morning only to find the moment I step outside for a walk, the answer appears simply and easily even before I get to the end of the street.

5.  Extend your boundaries. There is a very good reason why training programs usually involve butchers paper and colour textas. It is to encourage us to return to our child like exploration of ideas and to remove the limits and linear thinking that comes with lined paper or the standard work document.

To get ideas flowing ditch the computer and map out your thoughts on flip paper or a white board. This is the time for out of the box thinking. Believe no idea is a crazy one because it is from these crazy ideas that the gems appear. You can always amend them later to mould them into workable ideas… but for now just go with the ideas.

6.  Find some friends. You are no doubt smart. It may be your responsibility … but you don’t have all the answers. Very often the best solutions and ideas happen through collaboration. Reach out to your team, colleagues and mentors to bounce ideas around with. Ladies, we are known for our strength as collaborators so lets put that skill to work. Stop believing you need to do it all. You don’t!

7.  Be Inspired. We do not find new solutions or become more creative by maintaining the status quo. New ideas come when we step outside what we already know and experience new things.   Explore new places, seek out new experiences, visit places of inspiration, engage in wild and crazy conversations to extend your thinking of what is possible and expand your horizons by immersing in the works of the brightest thought leaders of today.

New ideas and solutions do not always come from brand new thinking … often it is from repurposing, redefining and reshaping the bright ideas of others.

Building your creativity is just like building any muscle. It takes persistence, practice and perseverance. We were all born creative but somewhere along the way it gets beaten out of us. We are told to colour between the lines, to be like everyone else and to follow the rules.

If you want to create innovating marketing ideas, develop game changing strategies or to solve the challenges that are thrown your way day in day out, you must flex your creative muscle. See this as a critical skill you can develop. Be bold. Be brave and have some fun.

Next Steps?

If you like what you have read, Click HERE  and pop your name and email into the boxes and come join this growing community of extraordinary, passionate, down to earth women just like you who are committed to finding their place at the leadership table.

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3 Easy Steps To Be More Productive

3 Easy Steps To Be More Productive

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How is it that we can be busy all day… but at the end of the day feel like we have achieved so little?  The problem lies in the fact that we are so often busy … but not overly productive! Just because you are stuck at your desk all day working through a long list of tasks does not necessarily equate to being productive.Being busy gives us the belief that we are working hard and makes us feel like we are contributing, while in fact we are spinning our wheels going no where fast.

When we are merely busy we tend to get caught up in and focus on things that we think are important and need to be done like responding to emails, attending endless meetings and mindlessly implementing time consuming, ineffective processes.

Being busy may make you appear impressive, and give you an elevated sense of importance, but of course it is nothing more than an illusion.  Being busy does not equate to producing results.  Most often, being busy gets in the way of achieving the results we are ultimately capable of.

Some people, maybe even you, wear their busyness like a badge of honor.  When asked, “how are you?” have you ever answered “busy!” When we respond in this way, I wonder, are we seeking praise, acknowledgement or sympathy?

To be more productive is something entirely different from being busy. 

Being productive is working smarter not harder.  It is about putting your energy where you will get the greatest return on your efforts.   It is having clear goals backed up with a workable strategy to meet your targets and investing in the activities that will get you to your outcome as quickly as possible.

Pareto’s Principle also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, roughly 80% our effects come from 20% of the causes.

When we apply this to our role at work and as a leader, it looks a little like this;

  • 20% of our effort creates 80% of our results,
  • 20% of our customers generate 80% of our sales,
  • 20% of our team produce 80% of the innovation.

So believing this to be true, imagine the results we could achieve if we were to identify which 20% of our work created 80% of our results and spent more time and energy in this area!

Image the impact and influence you could have as a leader by focusing on what will really get you improved results.  And with the improved results comes more recognition, maximising the perceived value you bring to the team and ultimately… hopefully, a pay increase, promotion or opportunity to work on an exciting project.

3 Easy Steps To Becoming More Productive

1.  Review: Take a critical look at how you spend each day.  Record for at least a week how you spend each hour, then classify each task into one of the following categories

  1. Time waster or “busy work”
  2. Required important work with low to medium return
  3. Highly productive work with high return

2.  Identify: Identify the top 20% of activities that generate the highest return for you in terms of results.

Likewise, get brutally honest with yourself about what are your “time wasters,” and decide how you are going to best manage yourself around these.  This doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating them all together.  Some of our time wasters are what add spice and enjoyment to our workday.

3.  Act: Commit today to allocate more time and energy to these high return activities while eliminating or significantly limiting your engagement in “time wasting” activities.

I also find it helps to schedule the high impact activities into your day when you feel most alert and in a productive mood.  For me this is first thing in the morning.  So if this is you too…. resist the temptation to get lost in the mountains of emails you have waiting or engaging in chat on social media and get the important stuff done first!  And by morning coffee time you will be well on your way to a super productive day.

Do you get caught in the busy trap?  What are your tips for escaping  busyness and being more productive?  Share your views in the comments section below.

Like what you have read? Click here to subscribe to my mailing list  for more inspiration and strategies for creating a life and career you love.

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Let Go Of Perfection

Let Go Of Perfection

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It is human nature to want to be good at what we do and to have our efforts recognised by others.  It makes us feel worthwhile, valued and it leaves us with a proud sense of achievement. But if you feel like you have to do things perfectly and that near enough is absolutely not good enough, then you may be afflicted by the curse of perfectionism.

Striving for perfection is a recipe for failure.  Perfection quite simply can not be attained!  Not at work, not in our relationships, not in our home. 


At work, perfectionists are obsessed with producing their best
, often setting unattainable goals.  They take longer than most to get their work done while they focus on the tiny details and burying themselves in their quest for getting things right.  As a leader they tend to be unreasonably demanding.  They will often micromanage their team; unable to let go for fear of less than perfect outcomes. 

For all their diligence, perfectionists also tend to procrastinate.  They are fearful of not getting things right so avoid getting started.  They struggle to get their work finished given the high, unachievable standards they have set.

And the genuine support coming from both senior men and women from within organisations is increasingly positive.

Perfectionism goes way beyond being a high achiever.  High achievers tend to be pulled toward their goals by a desire to achieve, they enjoy pursuing the goal and are satisfied with something close to excellence, while perfectionists are driven to act out of fear of not reaching their goals and see anything less than perfect as a failure.

The need for perfection most likely stems from interactions with our parents, teachers and peers in our childhood.  Being praised for high grades at school, encouraged to do better and try our hardest or chastised for a slip in results.  It is not the comments themselves, but the interpretation of these interactions through the eyes of a child, that leads to perfectionistic habits and behaviours as an adult.

Many have a love hate relationship with their need to be perfect.  It fuels and drives them to achieve but backfires when they become overly critical of themselves and of others.  It can get them into trouble when they become so lost in the detail they fail to move forward at the pace required in todays workplace. 

Are you a perfectionist at work?  Do any of these resonate with you?

  • It takes you much longer than others to complete reports
  • You agonise over the phrasing in an email
  • You feel overwhelmed about getting started on a new project
  • You miss deadlines, preferring to wait until your work is 100% on the mark
  • You are constantly burning the midnight oil trying to stay on top of things, often missing out on family and personal time
  • You stew for days or even weeks over errors in your work
  • You get stuck in one task, trying to get it perfect and never moving to the next task

The cost of your perfectionism can be a reputation for being slow or unreliable. In todays fast paced work environment, highly productive people who get the job done in a quick timeframe, are who employers will think of for promotion or exciting projects.

But sometimes the biggest cost…. is the cost to health.  Research has shown that perfectionists are more prone to suffer from anxiety, stress and persistent fatigue.  Perfectionists tend to fear not being able to live up to their own standards or beat themselves up and wallow in negative feelings when their high expectations are not met.

So do you see yourself in any of these scenarios?

Here are 3 Steps To Overcoming Your Habit of Perfection

1.  Recognise what your perfectionism is costing you.  Pain is a great motivator!  Identify what your perfectionist ways are costing you in terms of your career progress, your health, fun time with your family.

2.  Prioritise your most important tasks.  You most likely bring your perfection strategies to every area of you work.  In some areas of your work, your diligence and pursuit for excellence is a strength (eg: completing budgets, drafting board reports etc) while in other areas (emails to colleagues, weekly meeting agendas etc) your need for 100% is slowing you down, holding you back and quite possibly stressing you out.

Pick the top 5 tasks where your focus on detail is critical and allow yourself to pursue excellence in these priority areas.  For the rest, turn back the dial to 80 – 90%.  You may be surprised by how few people notice any difference in your effort.

3.  Set realistic Goals. “Good enough” is a term that strikes fear in most perfectionists but is a goal worth pursuing….. why? Because you are more likely to get the job done and on time! A reputation of poor productivity and failing to get work finished on time is a massive stumbling block for career progression.

Striving for high standards, of course can be beneficial.  But at some point it becomes debilitating and self-defeating.  You may feel a sense of control when you are doing things absolutely perfectly… while in fact your perfectionist ways are controlling you.  Letting go of these long held habits may take time but you will find it is well worth the effort.

Start today, by acknowledging what your perfectionist ways are costing you.

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Breakthrough Your Career Plateau

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