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Are you free to focus?

June 22, 2019

For a while I’ve been able to work on one thing whilst having several other things floating around my head. We’ve all tried multi-tasking but perhaps I’ve stretched that to my limit.  It no longer works for me.

There are too many incomplete tasks and they are beginning to distract me so that my focus is never fully on the thing I’m doing. There is a real risk of doing several things to a lower standard rather than giving focused attention to each.

I tend to have several different lists for different parts of my life and then I often fall back on memory to help steer me forward. I recognise that I need to make changes for things to be different. I know from my counselling that if we don’t adapt when change is required then we risk making things worse or becoming unwell.

This is why I sought out ‘Free to Focus’ by Michael Hyatt. I know I will always have varied interests that stimulate me and projects at different levels of completion. How do I set limits around quantity and quality of my work? How do I incorporate my wellbeing, client work, creative output and routine tasks in the best way possible?

How to be free to focus

Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt

In his book ‘Free to Focus’ Hyatt brings together several well tested ideas. Some ideas, like making good use of sleep and creativity, I already use. There are other things however that I’ve not made decisions on which I now need to address. I can’t and shouldn’t say “yes” to everything that comes my way.  Even if I am very efficient I will not be able to fit in everything, so I need to be able to say “no” to some things.

By not cutting out some things we end up with a list of things that we can never get to. But by being more realistic and making conscious choices about what goes onto our plates then things become achievable. That way things that matter, around values and goals, do not drop to the bottom, overtaken by easy tasks and distractions. The starting point, and a challenge for me, is cutting out some of the easy activities which do not align with stated goals.

But before we can cut out any extras we need to stop, decide what we want and evaluate our course.

As he suggests, big shifts can come from knowing when to automate, designate and delegate. I know that my answer lies in deciding to designate 3-5 hours at a time to big tasks (e.g. Writing or CPD) that require extended periods of focused work. Remembering to switch off notifications (constant disruptions) is another answer.

Routine is also essential, even for those of us who are self-employed creatives and often push against it. He suggests having a ritual for the start and end of each work day which then saves on the need for constant decision making and can be supported through better use of technology.

This book has inspired me to do things differently so that I can reduce overwhelm and maintain wellbeing. What about you, are you overwhelmed by it all or do you have an effective approach that leaves you fulfilled?  Please share and comment.

Shirley Anstis

@shirleyanstis

www.livingbeingdoing.com

 

Image by Larisa K on Pixabay

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter and it stems from a desire for equal outcomes between men and women. Equal achievement and life chances provides role models for others and allows everyone to celebrate the success of the many rather than a handful of women being outliers.

But how do we achieve progress that doesn’t take another 100 years? There’s a saying that ‘if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem’. This seems a bit harsh, but I guess it encourages influential leaders and employers to use their platforms to advance talented people from all genders and backgrounds. Of course, like many other awareness days/months it is helping us to focus on something we need to attend to all year round. Everyone has a part to play and as women our role is to encourage each other to try new things and celebrate each other’s successes. Sometimes we might even need to shield each other from harm.

Last weekend I attended an event looking at healthy female leadership. This used archetypal approaches and biochemistry to explain why, in order to remain healthy, a woman needs to lead through her feminine power. If she tries to lead through acquired masculine energies, she will eventually become ill or face burnout. The many case studies who shared alongside the psychotherapist, coaches and doctor were very convincing. We know so much more about the body-mind connection now that it is not hard to imagine that continuous acute stress will affect our health. If you are leading in any way, be sure to do it authentically and practice great self-care. Superwoman becomes ill.

But the truth is we all need a better way to find balance in our selves. Perhaps we can’t balance everything every day but maybe being aware of how we spend our time will help us. I’ve heard it said that women can have it all just not at the same time. Do consider what stage of life you are at.  There are different challenges and rewards at different stages.

I myself have moved through various full-time combinations of working and study to my current position as a self-employed parent of a small child with a partner and petit business.

What about you? What are your current priorities? Your focus could be on your career; raising children; caring for elderly relatives; discovering the world or understanding your inner world. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it fully, don’t feel guilty about not doing the other things, this too shall pass. The journey has many twists and turns.

Different life stages affect our capacity to fit in leisure and rest. Like you I am constantly tweaking my schedule to find the right balance between work and play. I encourage you to connect to your real life, what is really on your plate and make the best choices for you. I’m more alert to the fact that this changes over time; be sure to review if you feel strained, depleted or depressed. Small tweaks can have a big impact. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Writing your story

March 8, 2019

BOOK HERE

life writing

life writing, writing and wellness, mindful writing,

Time to Talk

February 7, 2019

As a practising counsellor I feel I want to encourage people to have better conversations about mental health. But the phrase ‘time to talk’ is so well used now that I wonder what we mean by it.

I remember when I first returned to live in England how I had to concentrate on the person I was speaking to figure out when they were genuinely interested in what I was saying and when they were just being polite. The difference between the two and the subtlety with which it is communicated affects us all.

So perhaps we can: –

Decide that – it’s time to talk

Create space – to talk

Choose a time – to talk

Communicate a desire – to talk

Show up, listen, empathise and not judge.  The people we connect to will appreciate it.

Most of us spend large parts of our day multitasking; at home, whilst travelling, at work, in meetings, with family and with friends.

What if we could create time to listen to ourselves? Is our self-talk supporting us or hindering us?

We too need the non-judgemental supportive space we create for others.

Through one-to-one counselling and writing workshops I try to provide this space for others.

I also provide such time for myself as often as possible. Whether I am walking between appointments or having a relaxing bath I allow myself space to be mindfully present and listen to what is going on inside me.

Let’s find ways to really talk to each other and to actually listen to ourselves. Each of us deserves to be heard.

 

 

(First published in TODAY Magazine, no longer online)

I bought this book around the start of 2018 when I try to face the new year and make decisions about what I’d like to do the next twelve months. Like many of you, I acquire stuff. At some point we need to look at our stuff and whether they are adding to our happiness. Many studies show that happiness is not about stuff but relationships and experiences.  With this knowledge I stumbled upon this book and decided to buy it.

 

Having read Marie Kondo’s book, I think it could help you if you have too much or even if you feel you don’t have enough. She has created what she calls the KonMari Method of organising where she asks her clients to really look at and touch the stuff in their lives and see how they feel. Her basic advice is to keep the stuff that brings you joy. Of course there are exceptions such as insurance documents, appliance guarantees and simple tools.

 

So why bother to do this life audit? Well the theory is that once we’ve let go of things we are carrying from the past we can free ourselves to live fully in the present and become clearer about our priorities. I found myself agreeing with this quote:” the space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming, not for the person we were in the past”. I know this through my counselling work where I  support people in discovering the person they envision themselves to be.

 

So what does she promise you will achieve by tidying? From her decades of doing this work and her hundreds of clients she has come up with some findings:

  • Put your house in order and discover what you really want to do
  • Gain confidence in life through the magic of tidying
  • Less attachment to the past or anxiety about the future
  • Learn that you can do without
  • Your living space affects your body – lighter, cleaner, fitter
  • Being surrounded by things that bring you joy makes you happy

 

KonMari Method promises that by using her method of tidying you will only need to tidy once and this will free up more time for living. Certainly the constant light tidying is what made me pick up this book because I knew I needed an idea that went deeper.

 

The method encourages you to discard stuff that are not important and don’t bring joy.  She knows that if we start with sentimental items then we’ll get side-tracked so she offers an approach that leaves the sentimental items near the end of the process. Clothes, books and paperwork are tidied, then komono (misc items) and finally sentimental items such as gifts and photos. You’d have to buy the book to check out her detailed guidance, including using shoe boxes for storage and tips for organise your wardrobe so you can find anything easily. This book is not for you if you are content to be surrounded by things you can’t find and don’t bring you joy. I’ve just taken my first steps with this. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

Shirley Anstis

The miracles in nature

(First published in TODAY Magazine, no longer online)

I approach this review with some ambivalence. Like many of you I am exploring ways to live my best life and fulfil my potential. On the other hand, we can ask too much of ourselves and maybe we’re already doing enough. Read this review of The Miracle Morning with your own life in mind so you can take from it what is helpful and leave what is not.

 

In the free video on his website the author speaks of how the financial crash of 2008 brought him to rock bottom and made him look at his life anew. In an attempt to study the lives of successful people, he stumbled upon their top habits. The book is essentially different ways of sharing these habits alongside research and case studies.

 

One of the challenges for me is the linking of these habits to early rising. The idea is that you carry out these 6 habits on rising every day, before breakfast, work or taking children to school! For many of us that requires a big shift in mindset and, getting to bed quite early the night before. Certainly, there are studies that show early rising helps us to be more efficient although late risers point to contradictory evidence.

 

What then are these six habits that you can do every day to help you achieve your potential? The author has chosen the  memorable mnemonic S.A.V.E.R.S. The letters stand for Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. He believes that doing these daily improves discipline, clarity and personal development. He calls these life savers and they can support physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.

 

You may already do some of these. Many successful people exercise daily. Some of us may read from a religious text or another book. Reading is not just about reading on social media but choosing content to help steer our day. Silence can include things such as meditation and prayer. The benefits of scribing – or keeping a journal – is overwhelming and I can explore that another time.

 

Affirmations and visualisations are probably the least known aspects of these 6 habits although we now know that many successful Olympians use both. Affirmations are about replacing fear and worry with more positive thoughts. Visualisations are imagining the positive outcomes you desire. I came across visualisations on my counselling training and sometimes make use of these in individual and group sessions; they can be powerful.

 

The miracle morning is a simple idea. The author wants us to know that after a 30-day trial it will become a habit. One of my cheats is listening to audiobooks so I can listen on the move or whilst doing tasks. I know that one of my fellow counsellors sprinkles the habits throughout her day. You can also experiment in doing it for one minute each to total 6 minutes. It’s just another way to make small changes in your life. How does this sound to you?

 

Shirley Anstis

 

Many people would like to write a book, but few put in the effort to achieve this.  

Would you like to write your book?

Do you have a story to tell? Have you had interesting experiences in your life that others might enjoy reading about?

Have you witnessed things you’d like others to celebrate or avoid?

Do you have a message that you would like to put into the world? 

Writing Your Story

Come and meet local authors who have taken the plunge and written several books. You might be motivated to record your life story and gift it to family and friends or

publish your learnings for sale to the wider community. This could also be a way to demonstrate your expertise. You may want to share your passion for a particular place

or experience. The possibilities are endless, you decide your theme and focus.

Come and join several authors who will talk about their experience of writing their books. Our speakers include authors Una Chandler, Cecily Mwaniki, Keith Seville and

Shirley Anstis. You will also explore the steps you need to take to get your book completed. Join others on a similar journey and be encouraged in the process.

We begin where you are and help you plan the route ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

It is only for people with mental health problems

You may think that there are people who have mental health problems and others who do not, but the truth is that we all have mental health and any one of us could experiences challenges in this area. Mental health is on a continuum and during our lifetime we can be located on different positions as it is not a static thing. Of course, we can build up resilience but sometimes we break because we refuse to bend. Statistics in the U.K show that 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health challenge during our lifetime. If that is not you it will be someone you know.

It is only for those on the verge of a breakdown

Some people think they need to be on the verge of a breakdown to seek help but that is not so. Therapy allows you to explore the shape of the life you live and how that fits with who you feel you are on the inside. The mere fact of exploring this could be preventative and therefore make a breakdown much less likely to occur.

Everyone has mental health

 

Therapists only look backwards, never forwards

There is a view that therapists are only concerned with the clients’ childhood. Whilst childhood is important in many approaches there are some schools in therapy that create healing through being in the present or by focusing attention on finding solutions to the current problem and so create a better future. I practice an integrative approach which gives space to all of these time phases.

One size fits all

This imagines that all clients are the same and can be worked with in the same way. Yet every professional knows that their clients are different in small and important ways and in order to serve them well we need to be in tune with that diversity. Some clients might be on medication, some might be in support groups and others could be in full-time employment. We could all benefit from taking some time out to reflect on our life choices and consider making beneficial changes.

They’re all the same

People resistant to getting help or those believing they can’t be helped might turn to an experience where they tried to get help and it didn’t work out. This may even be second hand information because they had a friend who was not helped as expected. By imagining that all therapists are the same (not individual humans) they do not need to open themselves up to trying again and possibly finding someone that is a better match to their personality and story. If you choose a therapist in line with your world view, then you’re more likely to find a fit and build the trust required to explore the issues.

Do any of these misconceptions chime with you or do you have a few others not covered here? I’d love to know what you think so please leave a comment below

This week

November 13, 2016
Autumnal walk

Autumnal walk

It’s been a challenging week for so many people in big and small ways. We’re all struggling to find our place in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. This is a good poem to return to again and again.

Desiderate

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann