Many of us are really great at crisis management. In an emergency, our flight-or-fight instincts kick in and we just know what the right thing to do is in that moment.
I look back to March of this year, and I saw myself and many others rise to the occasion to deal with the global pandemic emergency. We were resourceful. We came together and supported others who needed help.
Eight months later and if you are feeling tired of short-term coping strategies, it’s really no surprise. The hormone that helps us engage in an emergency, cortisol, isn’t designed to be in full time production. If you’ve ever used substances such as coffee to keep you going, you will know that the effect starts to wear off after a few weeks. You end up drinking more or making stronger cups, which overloads our system over time.
There comes a time when your system can’t cope and build up until they explode like a volcano.
Volcanic eruptions are often messy. They may show up as a blazing row with a family member or making a snap decision in your business that you quickly regret. Sometimes a volcanic eruption can be long and slow, where you simply switch off and turn to self-destructive habits such as sugar, alcohol or binge-scrolling Twitter.
If you are feeling close to a volcanic eruption, which many people are right now, I wanted to share with you today three simple ways to release some of this built up pressure.
Releasing just a little pressure can help you hugely. It can help you slow down just enough to clear the way for better thinking and better decision making. And all three require absolutely no tech and very little time (ten minutes at most!).
1) Who Not What
Most of us are programmed to be problem solvers. Even if you aren’t a natural problem solver, society expects us all to ‘pull up our socks and get on with it’. Us Brits are particularly stalwart in our approach to times of trouble and our ability to get through has been mirrored through many generations.
That ability to be strong, independent men and women can work at times of crisis, but that weight of self-responsibility soon gets heavy, especially when the going gets really tough. So let’s change the questions we ask ourselves.
Problem solving often starts with asking What and How questions.
What can I do? How can I get through this?
What if you changed the question.
Who can help me? Who can do this for me?
Same problem, but by asking for help you are taking the pressure of yourself to fix it all.
2) Dump. Ditch. Delegate. Date.
For those of you who know me well, you will know I just don’t like to-do lists. To-do lists are linear and don’t provide any structure in helping you prioritise. You end up picking and choosing what you feel like doing. Once you have done all the easy or more fun stuff, you are left with things you try to avoid so you simply add more things to your to-do list, which adds to the overwhelm and journey to volcanic eruption.
We use the process dump, ditch, delegate, date with our clients.
First dump everything you think needs doing on individual post-it notes. One thing on one note. Keep asking yourself ‘What else?’ until you run dry of ideas. Chunk down any big items so that you avoid having projects such as ‘Get new website launched’. Break these down into tasks that take no more than 90 minutes at a time. Yes, you may end up with a lot of post-it notes but this chunking down is important as it will help stop feeling overwhelmed by big things to do. The thinking time here will save you hours of procrastination and indecision in the coming weeks.
Next look at each post-it in turn and ask yourself ‘Can I ditch this?’ You may find a few ‘should-be-doing’ things sneak in so this is your chance to screw them up and ditch them.
Then go through each post-it again and ask ‘Who can do this for me?’ It may be that a few items come up that you haven’t got a specific person in mind so do you need to go find and hire someone new?
Finally, put the post-it notes left in the order of what needs doing. This is why post-it notes work because you can stick and unstick them until you feel the order is right. Get your diary out, check your schedule and decide when each post-it note is going to be actioned. Dates is the critical final step in this and what turns a linear to-do list into a task focused action plan.
All this can take as little as five minutes if you want to focus on just the day ahead, or 20 minutes if you are planning out the next few weeks.
3) Stop. Start. Keep.
This is a great exercise to help you put the breaks on and help you breathe before you begin your day or week. Any time you feel any overwhelm bubbling up, do this exercise to give you the pressure release before you head to full volcanic eruption.
I highly recommend you do this exercise away from your desk and your phone. Find somewhere away from the clutter or mess of your office and give yourself a little space to breathe. This is not a logic exercise, but one that helps you access your intuition and inner wisdom.
Take one piece of paper and turn it landscape.
Draw two lines so that you have your paper split into three sections. At the top of each section write Stop Doing, Start Doing, Keep Doing.
Give yourself ten minutes to write down anything that comes to mind that you feel you ought to stop, start or keep. Cast your mind back over the past few weeks and months and recognise what you have achieved, how you achieved it and see patterns of behaviour that you know work for you.
Some people like to spend a few moments quietly shutting their eyes and taking three or four deep breaths to help themselves get out of their head before beginning this exercise.
Social media use and relationships with phones often show up in the Stop Doing section. And wellbeing practices such as exercise and healthier eating habits for the Start or Keep Doing. The more you open yourself and get real honest about how you are showing up every day, the more you will see what habits may need breaking or starting. Just be careful not to give yourself an unrealistic list under the Start Doing … there’s often more power in stopping behaviours or recognising what’s working for you already, before you try to start new ones!
What are you going to take action on?
All three of these exercises we use with our clients regularly and they really are the foundations for many of their big wins. They not only help you release some of that pressure build up and stop the volcanic eruptions, they also help you get more body conscious about how you are going about your day-to-day. Which in turn will help you see what you can get done in the time that you’ve got, and what you are more than capable of achieving.
Let me know what you put in to practice and what results you get. I’d love to know what difference these make to you and your business results.
And if you would like to know more about the work that I do around business productivity and impact, click here to find our more about our programme Ebb & Flow.
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.
About the author
Karen Skidmore is a midlife leadership & business coach for entrepreneurs scaling their purpose & profit. Business Books Awards finalist 2020 & podcaster, Karen uniquely combines the being-ness and doing-ness of business to help you grow, without burning out.
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