The One Thing all Disruptors Do.

Choice. It goes hand in hand with freedom.  Most of us associate having a choice with the ability to say “yes” or “no” or some variation in between.

Choice also refers to how we think.  The freedom to think in ways that serve us or harm us.

The one trait that all disruptors have – people who challenge the status quo – is the that they dare to create original and new content.  They choose not to accept things how they are, and disrupt that status quo with original thought and ideas.  They actively, intentionally choose how to think and filter incoming information accordingly.

The freedom to think and choose is about taking all of the incoming data, inputs, opinions and what else arrives from the external world, sift through it and then use what serves and aligns with our values, and discard that which does not. A disruptor is also someone who dares to step outside of the box and offer a different way of seeing things, which is risky, scary and sometimes dangerous.

I choose to be a maternity leave / early motherhood disruptor.  I choose to take in information, filter it, choose what works, discard what does not, and I work to be aware of alternate ways of thinking.

A great example is one of the most common things that people say to me every.day.  I choose to be a bit of a shit disturber and have them think twice about this common phrase.

Someone will ask me how old my children are.

I reply, 3 and 1.5 years.

They shake their head, pity in their eyes.

“Oh wow. That must be soooooo busy.”

Half of the time, I don’t tell them I work full time as well.  I feel like based on that initial reaction, it might be too much! And I’m already not particularly interested in hearing all of the reasons why that is hard / scary / challenging /sucky.  Because I don’t see it that way.

Sometimes I like to be mischievous and go for it, and maybe while I’m at it all drop the bomb that I also write and run a coaching business.

Pity sort of, well…. it usually turns to horror.

“Oh my god. How. Why?!?!” something along those lines.

Here’s where the disruptor bit comes in.I choose not to look at things the same way.

If I focused on how busy and overwhelming life with two under three is, it would create some pretty powerful self-limiting beliefs and barriers.  “I couldn’t possibly focus on anything else right now.” That’s what I would tell myself.  If I worked and focused on childcare costs and the logistics of it all, well, it would be not very… helpful.

“I couldn’t possibly focus on anything else right now. Look at all of these barriers. My lief is busy! hard! maxed out!” That’s what I would tell myself if I listened and bought into external influences.

The thing is though, that doesn’t work for me, my life or my goals.  I’m not saying it is a bad belief or wrong, it just doesn’t serve me. 

I choose to be liberated in my thinking. I choose to see things in different ways because we do have a choice. My days aren’t busy, they are so ridiculously fulfilling and exciting. I’m not dropping half of my paycheque on childcare and rendering my work futile, I’m exposing y kid to exciting things and a social life and activities, and in turn I’m enjoying professional development growth and adult engagement.  It’s a win-win. Not a lose-lose.

As a mother there is a very, very powerful motherhood dialogue out there – in media, advertising, even in mommy groups.  Too busy. Too overwhelmed.  Unable to balance life (can’t keep up with all of the jobs and roles). Struggle (I’m alone in this).  Hardship (isolation, the difficulty of mommyhood). It sucks. (sleep deprivation- how could you possible survive it and work?!)  Fear (not spending enough time with my child because of work, quality time, tv time over play time)  – gosh all of those dialogues are so, so prevalent.

If I listened to all of those, all of the time, and bought into them, my potential would be wasted.  Lost to self-imposed barriers and harmful thinking.

Choose to be an outlier, choose to be someone who sees the positive in everything.  Choose to get away from the average or status quo.  Disrupt.  Know you have a choice in how you think, act and talk.

Then, go and watch this 12 minute video of Shawn Achor at TED talking about the outliers and positive psychology. (he is also incredibly hilarious.)

And go disrupt, mama. March to your own drum.  Listen to that which serves your goals. Think for yourself.  Set an example for other new mothers, mothers like me that look for “things that are great about being a parent” or “why it’s easy to work and have children” – because I know I have googled those, and I wasn’t able to find the voices or the blog posts that told me all of this is possible. I stumbled around, tried it out and discovered it for myself, but there needs to be more voices out there encouraging, inspiring and disrupting.

 

The Passion Planner is one of the Greatest Time Management Products I’ve Seen for Busy Moms.

The other day, a student in my office introduced me to the Passion Planner.  She seemed surprised that I did not know what it was (luckily my students keep me up to date with the times!)   I AM SURPRISED I did not know about it!

The moment she pulled a beautifully inscribed journal out of her bag, I knew it would be right up my alley. I am a huge proponent of analog methods of time management (not to replace, but to complement digital methods.) However, I did not know how many great things were inside the pages until she showed me.

The passion planner is a fantastic combination of two important components of time management: It has a tactical component (day to day execution pages – with weekly and monthly calendars, personal & professional to do lists)

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And a strategic component.  There are pages for passion roadmaps and concept charts for 1, 3 and 5-year plans incorporating SMART goal setting principles.  Tips abound and plenty of space for creative brainstorming.

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Smart time managers are also adept at another practice:  They reflect.  The passion planner also allows for that, with a monthly reflection at the end of each month with prompt questions.  The monthly reflection has you think about whether you stayed true to your priorities, how to improve, what successes you had and where you feel gratitude and a sense of accomplishment. It is a nice balance between celebrating success and identifying areas of improvement.

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If you have a journalling or time management enthusiast in your life, this is perhaps the best Christmas gift you can get them, ever, along with a set of fantastic coloured pens 😉 Especially for those returning to work from mat leave, or setting a new year and new priorities for what they want to get out of their maternity leave – or out of their busy lives which include motherhood.  The sacred space to plan, reflect and assess is one that we are all too often missing in the busy days of motherhood, and is perhaps one of the most beneficial gifts we can give to a mother 🙂

http://www.passionplanner.com/

I have mine already on order & can’t wait to show you what I do with it!

 

 

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Add this Approach to your Time Management.

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Time management. It’s a word that fascinates me. I study it. I present on it. I coach clients and students in this topic extensively. It is one of the most frequent requests that I get.

When we want to improve ourselves – either professionally or personally, the first place many of us go, is google. A close second is people we look up to or trust.

We open the laptop. We google, and then we search. Scrolling down the page, we select the links that stand out, delve in and read the practices, the tips, the tricks and the life hacks. Then, we go back to work with the best intentions, but quickly settle back into the same routines, the same habits and a sense that simply acquiring knowledge is notall there is to this puzzle of how to effectively manage our time.

Time passes, whether we use it or not.   We are so, so acutely aware of this as our babies grow before our eyes and their faces change in a DAY!  A DAY!

We are hyper-aware of this, aren’t we? Here I am writing this article. Here you are, reading this article. We care about how we use our time, and we want to use it better.

It turns out that time management is deliciously complex, and a perpetual balancing act. Any outstanding time manager knows it is an incredibly dynamic area of their lives with ever-changing needs. I’d be worried for a client if they weren’t having to juggle their lives. If they weren’t struggling. To struggle with time management is to engage with it. The people who say that they are constantly working to manage their time? I want to hear that. They are actively avoiding becoming entrenched in a routine. They are engaging with changes in their daily lives. They are moving forward with intention and avoiding becoming stuck. Struggling with time management means growth. Perhaps that is why it is such an enjoyable and ever-rewarding topic to dive into as a coach.

IT IS NORMAL to say you are struggling to balance your schedule because when you tell me you are struggling, it means you are working at it.  Remember that 🙂

There will actually never be a point in your life where everything is running smoothly.  Unexpected variables will come in – call from Daycare for a sick kid. Mega project at work and an injury at the same time. But there is a point in your life you can get to, and that is the ability to not stress when things aren’t running smoothly, to just embrace the bumps and not let it throw you off.  When you see “not normal” as “normal.”

 

Are you the general, or the soldier?

I could direct you to the time management matrix by Stephen Covey, or print out a nice Monday to Sunday schedule and have you analyze your day-to-day existence. Perhaps I could coach you on the way you conceive of time and your mindset around time.  You don’t need that. You already have had an advanced course in time, because you had a baby.  Time compressed, duties increased and you found yourself re-thinking all of your old routines , which got thrown out with the first diaper.

There is an important skill that these people  – these amazing mamas have – with mad schedules – BUT the calmness and presence and peace of mind that we all envy.  This is a skill that is not discussed as often as other time management practices:

This skill is the the ability to fluidly work at two different levels. The ability to operate at a strategic level (think of a Army General doing the goal setting, planning, assessments) and the ability to operate at a tactical level (think of a Soldier carrying out the work, boots on the ground.) You’re going to have to bear with me using military analogies, but I think we all have the gist of what each role involves.

The strategic level of time management is about consistently having the overarching goals and objectives nearby as the plan is made. A strategic time manager defines and understands priorities, can anticipate influencing factors, incorporate changes in those factors, and decide where, when and why to apply their efforts. They don’t lose site of their goal and are anchored. A strategic time manager takes the time to analyze and assess how things went, and looks at the execution of that plan (the tactical level.)

It is absolutley critical to set yourself a few goals, or things you want to get out of the maternity leave experience.  For my first born, it was learning about motherhood and choosing which parts I wanted to embrace, and other parts where I needed to define my own style.  And  embracing it (because I hated the idea of motherhood before I got pregnant.) A key theme was also slowing down. For my second born, it was about integration of motherhood with my professional goals and testing out balancing the twos.  Mental health improvement was also a big goal during my second maternity leave.

The tactical level of time management is about grounding oneself in the overall strategy, and then deciding exactly how to execute that strategy in real life. Tactics are the way that we actually achieve our goal in real, day-to-day life. In my opinion, the bulk of time management resources lie here. For a mother this may be, how do I manage the crushing fatigue, how to get some sleep in to gain some energy for other tasks.  Meal prep, scheduling some solo time, team work with husband and family, sharing a family iCal, and so on.

The weeks expand into months all too quickly. Do we take the time each week to circle back, think about the previous week, and the next week – do we carve out that 20 minutes? What does our execution look like? Did our week wind up being in line with our goals? What did we say yes and no to? Did we take new things on?   How many of those goals do we accomplish and how do we get them done? Were they done in a sustainable way and at a pace that we can keep up with over many months?

A strategic planner will ask these questions.  But a strategic planner will schedule this time into their day and protect it, as well. Outside of the work world, the best time managers I know are ones who get up before everyone else in the family – or take some alone time – in order to have some strategic planning time. They are also adept at dealing with unexpected events or variables because they have practiced thinking at the strategic level.  Those unflappable Moms who just get to work when all of a sudden their kid breaks a leg and they are trying to manage a baby at the same time but seem to make it to the hospital and deal with it all okay and with a good attitude.  You know those moms.

Months turn into seasons, and with this longer view, we are able to see which area we are dominant in, and how this has influenced our daily lives.

Productivity is great! Do more! Be more! There is a strong drive to be an excellent tactical executor. There is an INTENSE pressure in the Mom world to live in the execution world.  Diaper feed satisfy the baby satisfy the family do more be more do it faster.

And the thing is, we are creatures of habit, our brains want us to get into a routine so that it can automate some of its tasks. The danger here is that in this style of time management, this leads to the situation where we wake up one day and think wow, I am really overwhelmed, I’ve taken too much on, and I am feeling a bit out of control. My goal for you with this article is for you to think about how much time you live in the strategic time management world versus the tactical time management world. I want you to gain some awareness.

What does it mean to make good use of strategic planning? To use an analogy, these people are firmly anchored with their boat and know everything about the environment (including weather) around them, but their sails are not catching the wind. They’re not actually moving forward, despite knowing what they need to do. They’re so busy planning and studying the environment they forgot to put the sails up.

Some mamas are dominant in tactical execution.  I would argue this is the most common theme with mothers.  They are productive machines and there is powerful momentum in this approach. Efficient, fast, they don’t think past what has to be done right now and take on more.  But a departure from strategy means that these hard workers can (and do) take on extra tasks that result in loss of identity & fulfillment – away from the objectives and priorities set out in the role, in the sake of boots on the ground / get work done.

Living in a purely tactical time management world is, in a sense, to lose some power and control in ones daily life. Where all of a sudden you realize “I haven’t had a single evening to myself in three months, wtf.”  or “Wow, I am running on empty at this point and coffee and wine are literally helping me survive it.”

A purely tactical sailor, to go back to our analogy, has lost their anchor and are moving at a fast clip, with wind full force in their sails – however, they are so busy managing the full sails, that they don’t have time to assess, plan and reflect on the environment they are entering. They’re moving so fast in their day, that they cannot look up and are heading for bad weather – and when that bad weather comes, they are so busy managing their sails that they cannot adjust – CRISIS! A tactical time manager will experience a shakeup – perhaps the kids are home from daycare because they are sick – or a project has hit a road bump – and say, and I quote this: “I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW!”

With these analogies, you now have a feel for what it means to be a strategic thinker or a tactical executor. The most effective time managers get things done – yes – but they also know when to take a moment – to request from their husband or boss, to carve out space in their day and PROTECT that space in their day – so that they have a sacred space to plan, reflect and set their goals and intentions.

What do you truly want to make a priority in your life? What do you want to say yes to, and what do you need to say no to?  What does a week or a maternity leave, even,  look like with sound strategic thinking? Hindsight and foresight? Clear priorities and goals?

The most effective time managers are able to dance with strategic and tactical approaches, never losing sight of either one. It’s a fluid dance, sometimes we must put our heads down and go tactical, and survive it (with above mentioned coffee and wine) but when there is time to take a breath, we retreat inside ourselves to the strategic and find our anchor. And if there is no time to do so? Ask yourself why this happened.  Why didn’t you make space for this important part in your life. Were you caught up in the day to day?

To work at the strategic and tactical level in time management gives us the awareness and knowledge to clearly and effectively say “yes,” “no,” or “let’s renegotiate this” in our day to day lives.  If you struggle with setting boundaries, saying yes or no clearly, perhaps this is the right article for you. As a mama, life (and our families) will always be banging on our doors, and when they do, our answers need to be given with clarity, courage, confidence and the knowledge that, as Stephen Covey says, there is a “big yes” burning inside.

For further reading and inspiration around the “bigger yes,” you may want to read this fantastic article by Derek Sivers.

 

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Why you should reject the “OMG I AM SO BUSY” Busy Mom Mindset

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In my professional job at a Canadian University, I design and give seminars on a variety of topics that help students be successful at University.  It’s one one my favourite parts of the job and it has some selfish benefits – I get to learn and experiment with these principles in my own life before I share with clients.  I get to read books and research and then teach principles to others, that help me, too.

At this year’s class of 2020 induction the University brought in NYT best selling author, Psychologist & TED Talker extraordinaire Kelly McGonical speak to the class of 2020 on her new book, The Upside of Stress.

At its core, this amazing book is really about how to reframe stress and use the power of our own perspective and our own mindset, to reframe stress into a good thing. Chock-full of anecdotes and research, The Upside of Stress demonstrates the power of mind over body – and mind over life.

Those Books that Make a Difference

Often, the books that resonate with us the most, are the books that simply frame in English language, some kind of principle we’ve understood or known all along, but couldn’t fully frame. I think that’s why the book did so well.  The Upside of Stress hit home in so many ways. I only wish I had read it when I was in undergraduate studies myself.  It would have saved me so much self-imposed “I’m soooo busy!” drama.

I didn’t figure out my stress stuff until the age of 30, when I experienced really heavy stress.

In the spirit of this book, and the approach McGonigal takes on reframing stress, I wanted to talk about how we can re-interpret stress & the cult of “busy” in the journey of motherhood. We can’t change events or circumstances, but we can work on how we viewtalk about and decide to interpret things.

 

Mom 1 to Mom 2:  Hey…are you a member of the cult?

Mom 1:  wtf?

Mom 2:  The cult of busy of course! WE ARE SOOOO BUSY! (takes off chasing toddler)

 

Whenever I mention to people that I have two small children (toddler and 1.5 year old) the first thing they do is shake their heads and say “oh, that’s busy.”  I often don’t even mention that I have children because I don’t want to induce such worry!

Sometimes I get “oh my god, you must be so busy” with a shake of the head, other times, slightly more worringly, it is with genuine concern / resignation.  I catch myself thinking  “oh?” and sort of start to doubt myself, like I should be more stressed than I am.  Maybe I’m not working hard enough?  Am I not doing something right as a parent?  Because I feel actually ok? Am I being a horrible parent because I’m obviously taking time out of parenthood to work on some business goals and people don’t do that?  Oh yes, they creep in.  As much as I keep them out, they creep in when someone looks at me with an alarmed look on their face with the mention of two children under three.

The problem is, I kind of don’t want their perspective.

If bought into this whole “my life is so horribly busy and I work so hard and I am exhausted and omg” it would be a bit of a disaster.  I would have immersed myself in the cult of busy. I’d probably be on a really high SSRI dosage.  I’d be in counselling.  I’d be struggling to deal with the left curve balls that sometimes get thrown my way.

It’s a devious cult, this cult of “busy” and it is hard to emerge from because it takes over the way you see things.  It’s a mindset.

If my mindset is like this:  MY LIFE IS MAXED OUT, I AM SO BUSY AS A MOM HOLY SHIT, I definitely would not be giving myself the mental space for anything else to happen, ever.  Because I’d be red-lining on everything, all the time. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’d done on mat leave, or started any businesses or projects.

It led me to wonder, how come everybody says “you must be so busy.”

Why?  There’s tons of influences. In coaching we call it societal discourse.  It’s the hum of conversation around a topic that seems to be widespread.

First, it might be a cultural thing.  There’s a sort of pride, achievement in saying how busy you are.  If you are busy you must be super productive and successful.  I must be super productive and successful.  Therefore I must be busy. That’s the underlying assumption that occurs out there in the world when you have a lot on the go.  The ego likes that.  Then it doubles down when you are a Mom, because we have this weird guilt thing where we feel like we have to justify our very existence with double the hard work, right?

Some people are genuinely maxed out with life, and that’s totally cool.  I’m not judging.  But I write this post to help others who want to “catch” themselves in the mindset and take the edge off of it, because I think a lot of opportunity opens up with just a shift in mindset.

Where else does this whole busy mom thing come from?

There’s movies about the harried, flustered Mum.  Commercials that want you to think you are busy because then you’ll need their product.  Capitalist society wants you to be busy and stressed, because then they have solutions for you for only $10.99.

Moms are always portrayed as stressed and frazzled, aren’t they?  Everywhere we go, everything we see.  And it’s kind of our fault.  We don’t look up from our phones to pay attention to a mom calmly playing with their kids in the park – we only notice the exceptions.  They’re more interesting.  The 5 minutes in the day where the kid has gone bat shit crazy, and is about to take down a shelf at the grocery aisle, with Mum valiantly trying to save the kid from himself.  But we don’t notice the quiet moments – not the other 1440 minutes where they are doing well and things are calm.

The exceptions become the norm, then media and society immerses us in that norm.

 

Because of reading books like McGonical’s – books from different people with different mindsets, who all experience the same things we do yet see them in a different way –  I discovered that there is more to it.  There are people out there who achieve amazing things as parents, and they think differently.

The key is if we want to be something, or do something, we need to study those who are successful at it, and look at their mindsets.  

We are not resigned to this fate of busy, harried, stressed out moms.  We can be busy, yes but we can be in control and cooly, calmly and pleasantly say no if we need to, or yes if it’s a priority. We can choose yes or no and make our lives as busy, or quiet, as we want to.

The luxury of choice also extends to our own minds.  We have the luxury of making a choice of whether to believe we are busy or not.  With two under three, I decided that I was not busy; I still had time.  And with that time, I could pursue goals and dreams and projects and priorities.

Sure, free time was compressed from 3 hours (luxurious evenings pre-children) to 1 hour (while children or napping, or while I am on lunch break at work.)  but I still had an hour free time each day in some form or another.  Free time is free time.  I sat down and looked at my week, and where the gaps of free time happened (6-7am, lunchtime at work, and 8-9:30pm) and decided what my most deeply held goals and values / priorities were. A crystal clear priority plan I still have on my iPhone notes when I need to remind myself what I want to say “YES” to, and as a source of strength when I have to say “NO” to things.

In this or that hour of free time, there went the goals and projects.  Writing a childrens’ book.  Running an Etsy store.  Reading and learning.  Finishing my coach training and launching a coaching business.  But they weren’t OMG JUST MORE SHIT TO DO.

These were all consciously chosen and pursued dreams and goals that I looked at as my idea of fun on free time.  I wanted to do these.  That’s just me. That’s what I define as enjoyable and rewarding.  Others may be Netflix or catching up on laundry, that’s okay too!  But do you tell yourself “AAAAGH!” or “COOL, IT WILL BE NICE TO SWITCH IT UP AND DO THIS INSTEAD.”

Is your approach an “ I HAVE TO” approach or a “I WANT TO” approach?

I don’t mean to be a jerk but I do mean to give a cold hard dose of reality with this post –  if you came back and said to me NO SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO FREE TIME I would debate that. I would want to see a week’s breakdown of your life, and I would ask you about your mindset.  I would ask you about what you said yes to, what you said no to. I’d ask you to put “yes and no” in the box according to what you said when that opportunity came up.

What qualifies in your life as free time?  What activities are you designating as “I have to” and  as “I want to.”

Let’s take this external event, I’ll show you an “I have to” and “I want to” mindset.

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Deciding to take the kids to the library.  Two different experiences.

Mum 1:  Agh I have to get them out of the house and this is my to do today.  It’s just one more thing on this massive list of things I am supposed to get done today. Work work work! Busy busy busy! I have to get this done!

Mum 2:  Ah awesome, with this hour I’m going to decide to take the kiddos over to the library, that’s a treat for us, a fun excursion and a break from the day’s routines. I want to do this !

SAME external life event for both moms.  Two TOTALLY different ways of perceiving it. No wonder when you come across people in the library everyone is in a totally different state of mind; look at how different their beliefs can be.

Mum 1 is living in the  “holy shit I’m so busy / stressed” narrative. Mum 1 feels that everything is outside of her external control and she’s just dragging herself along.  Mum 2 is living in a more in-control narrative that doesn’t see everything as obligations and duties.  Mum 2 is operating by choice.  They may both have busy lives and the same schedules, but they have different mindsets and ways of perceiving the situation.

What do you think Mum 1 and Mum 2’s lifestyles look like?  Do their thoughts serve them well?  Do their mindsets move them closer to goals they have?

 

 

When you wake up in the morning and you have a particularly big day of activities coming up – whether you work or stay at home, do you feel that anxious energy and think “I JUST WANT TO STAY IN BED OMG LIFE IS SO OVERWHELMING AND THIS IS JUST CRAZY”  Or do you feel that anxious energy and think “cool, this is a little tingle of excitement and anticipation getting me ready to execute a big day!”

The brain quite literally  changes its wiring and neural pathways to accommodate your thinking patterns.  Each time  you choose to think a certain way, you are either reinforcing the pathways present – or helping the brain to reshape itself and habitually think a different way.

If you start reading books by all of these cool women who have kids and have achieved awesome things, youll notice that most them tend to go through the exact same scenarios that we moms do – but they frame it differently.  They make the choice to think things, and form their brains in ways that will help them toward their goals. You as a mama know how quickly time passes, so think about what you want to achieve.  Whether you use it or not, time will pass.  You already know this better than anyone, as you sit with your baby and think “where did the time go?!”

If you want to join the cult of busy and the stress narrative, that’s your choice but ask if it serves you and gets you towards your goals.  There’s an alternative that will help you take on new things and grow.  You just have to choose it.

xo

 

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Extra reading *and viewing

 

Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/1583335617

McGonical’s online course through Stanford University http://online.stanford.edu/course/upside-stress

Kelly’s personal website http://kellymcgonigal.com/