Stress is literally killing us – here are 4 simple ways to reduce it.

Stress – It doesn’t need an introduction.

It is spreading around the world like an epidemic… The chances are you have been affected by it in your life… Almost all of us have.

High levels of stress release a hormone called Serotonin in your body.

This hormone creates the ‘fight or flight’ sensation – It is a part of our biology, so when we are presented with real danger, our bodies and mind are ready to fight off the danger or run away from it. It was only designed to be used infrequently and in moments of life threatening danger.

This hormone, when activated, switches off all none essential functions in your body.

Here are some of the things that get switched off when you feel stressed:

Your immune system
Your creativity
Your digestive system
Your memory retrieval
Your physical growth

As you can clearly see, these elements are critical factors in the long-term ability to be a healthy human being.

When we understand that high stress causes high levels of Serotonin to be pumped through our bodies, all of the time, it’s easy to identify why stress is literally killing us.

“No amount of anxiety can change the future. No amount of regret can change the past.”

Karen Salmansohn

If you, like me, have been affected by stress, here are 4 simple ideas that can help:

Remove yourself from the situation

imagesThe power of physically removing yourself from the situation and going for a walk… in nature if possible…. cannot be underestimated. The act of getting away, even just for half an hour, acts as an emotional and intellectual reset.

Give your brain some air and some space.

The fact of the matter is your brain can answer any question you give it… what you need to do is ensure you are asking the right questions. When you are in the moment, with all the stress factors surrounding you, it is difficult to know what the right questions are… never mind try to answer them.

Go for a walk in nature. Give your mind some time, space and air. Just enjoy the experience. When you return, you will feel less stressed – therefore will have ‘switched on’ those internal systems you need, like creativity.

Here is my challenge to you – if you think this strategy is just wishful thinking or that you don’t have the time – then test it… go for a one hour walk in nature today… what have you got to lose?

If I am right… imagine what you might gain.

Focus on what is REALLY important

Stress, in the main, is caused by lots of little things that all feel very urgent.

We often mistake urgency for importance and therefore are bound to feel stressed, because pretty much everything is urgent these days!

There is a theory that 20% of the tasks you have to do in any given situation, will deliver 80% of the results you desire. So… if you have a ‘To-Do list’ of 10 actions, 2 of these will deliver 80% of the results you want… leaving the other 8 actions with only 20% of the outcome you need.

Do you know what the 20% of important actions are in your life? Because when you do, and once you take action on them, 80% of your stress will be removed.

Take some time out to figure out what is the most important 20% in your life – then start taking action towards these things first.

Take action, even when you don’t feel like it

“There is just so much to do…. I don’t know where to start.”

I hear this so often when working with people under high levels of stress. The bottom line is, this approach is not serving you.

Taking action will serve you.

If you have managed to identify the important 20%, then work on this… but even if you haven’t – start taking action… any action is better than no action at all.

When we are stressed, we don’t see the value in the small steps forward – we want a magic wand to sort it all out. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand and there is rarely a quick fix.

Think of this metaphor… The person is who wants to lose weight and get fit.

If this person goes on the scales after one gym session and a healthy breakfast, they will be disappointed… there won’t be any difference. In fact they probably still won’t notice a difference after a week of gym sessions and healthy eating either.

But those little actions DO make a difference… In fact they make ALL the difference!

Do you think that person will notice a difference after two weeks? A little maybe… how about a month? How about a year?

Of course there will be a massive difference – It is simple, but true.

This is the same with stress.

Take positive action consistently. You might not notice the difference immediately… but over time the transformation will become dramatic!

So, when you don’t know what action to take or don’t feel like taking action is worth it… do it anyway. Keep on taking positive action everyday.

Soon those small actions will build momentum – and momentum will make you unstoppable!

Create and use a support network

You are not alone.

stock-photo-large-group-of-people-seen-from-above-gathered-together-in-the-shape-of-two-hands-reaching-out-each-255266638You are not the only person to have experienced this level of stress.

Don’t face it alone. Today we are more connected than ever before, so we should use this to our advantage! Connect with other people who are facing similar struggles… or even better, connect with those that have overcome them!

Together we are stronger.

Seek out like-minded people who can support you, who can challenge you and who will need you to do the same. There are so many sources of information, inspiration, groups, coaches, networks out there – use them.

The strength of knowing that you are not alone, the power you gain from knowing that it can be overcome is immeasurable. You have access to this at your finger-tips:

Watch inspirational videos
Join discussion groups
Meet with follow professionals in your sector
Get a coach
Get a mentor
The list goes on…. just get some support!

Putting it all together:

Stress stops everything. It stops important internal processes and it stops you making good decisions and taking positive action.

Don’t let it. You can take control… Remove yourself from the situation, get some fresh air and fresh perspective. Work out what 20% of tasks you need to do to remove 80% of the stress levels.

TAKE ACTION and build momentum… And finally don’t forget to get some support – You are better working with others, allow yourself to be the best version of you.

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Like this post? Then you will love my latest book: Emerging Leadership. Click here to check it out.

6 Life-hacks to Revolutionise Your Productivity!

“Focus on being productive, instead of busy”

Tim Ferriss

It is a great quote, from the author of the ‘4 hour work week’ and productivity expert, Tim Ferris. The problem is, it is easier said than done! We all live busy lives and the world constantly applies more demands on us than ever before.

How can we possibly become more productive?

This question has saturated my life. I am dedicated to becoming the best and most productive version of myself and if you want more out of yourself and your life, you will know exactly what I mean. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, yet some people appear to achieve so much… How do they do that?

I spent years studying this. Studying the highest performers in the world… business leaders, sports coaches, olympic athletes and political leaders and I have found that there are trends and strategies that anyone can follow, which will improve productivity 10 fold.

Focus on just one thing at a time.

Put simply, focus solely on a singular objective until it is completed or you reach a specific milestone, then move onto another task.

What I am saying is that multi-tasking is for losers –  don’t even try! If you do it will make you less proficient and less productive.  

Lots of you won’t believe me, so let’s test it – Get a stopwatch and time how long it takes to do the following: Firstly, multitasking – Do both of these activities at the same time – Count out loud to 100 while writing down the alphabet twice. Secondly, tackle both exercises separately, counting to 100 first, then completing the writing task… Which test produced the better work in the quickest time? 

If you try to multitask you will progress slower and less effectively. Focus on just one thing at a time and you will move quicker and perform better.

Get more done, to a higher standard by focusing on one task at a time.

Scrap to-do lists

There have been many studies on this and overall the resulting statistics tell us that 41% of the average to-do list doesn’t get done. The facts tell us a story, to-do lists are not an effective tool for productivity!

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The highest performing people utilise calendars instead. They attribute all of the days objectives into time blocks. What this does is allow you to stay true to focusing on one objective at a time. You know that you will spend time on everything you need to, so it frees up your mind to the task in hand, rather than worrying about all the different tasks for the day.

 

I have to be honest, when you first start, putting everything into your calendar takes time and it is difficult to maintain the discipline. However I can honestly say that this is the single most effective productivity strategy I have ever used. When it is blocked into your calendar it gets done… it really is amazing!

Never ever sacrifice quality time

This is so important. To be ultra productive you need to be at your very best. This means the quality time in your life is vital because it will re-charge your energy levels and freshen your perspective.

When returning to your tasks after quality time, you will be more energised, quicker-thinking and at you most productive.

Unfortunately most of us will sacrifice quality time because we don’t think we have enough time to deliver on our objectives. So the strategy is: More work and less play.

The problem with this strategy is obvious – The more you deny yourself the quality time you need, the less productive, less energetic and less creative you will be!

Give yourself quality time… You will deliver more, deliver it quicker and at a higher quality.

Only deal with email/social media once per day

Here is a fascinating statistic: People who access their email or social media within the first 40 minutes from waking up, are over 25% less productive that those that don’t.

“Email is nothing but a convenient organising system for other peoples agenda’s.”

Brendon Burchard

Don’t let it! It will be ridiculously rare, impossible even, for an email or social media post to be dealt with instantaneously! If it’s an emergency people don’t normally contact you via email or social media!

Instead of continually spending the day checking your inbox or you phone, block out time on your calendar for email and social media. By doing this, you will literally save hours on your average day!

Have a positive morning routine

The highest performing people in the world… petty much all of them… have a morning routine that pro-actively and consciously sets them up for an ultra productive day.

good-morning-routineYou already have a morning routine. The question is, does yours set up up for a great day? If not, why not?

Morning routines of high performers vary. Some people meditate, others do exercise, many write positive affirmations for the day or a journal.

The routines are different, the desire is the same: create a positive and conscious intention for the day ahead.

When you prepare to have a great day and set positive intentions, the more opportunity you will have of delivering a great day. 

I have tried a number of morning routines and have developed one that works well for me. This has been another powerful addition to my life and I recommend you experiment with this yourself.

Maintain peak physiology

The last strategy I can offer is the most basic and simple advice ever. Everyone knows it… but not everyone follows it.

The more energy you have the more productive you are!

Therefore the highest performers in the world focus on how they treat their bodies. Ensuring they eat healthy, drink lots of water, sleep at least 7 hours per night and take breaks to relax.

It is really simple advice, but it is often ignored. If you are tired, dehydrated, undernourished then you will not be in peak condition… If you want to be at peak productivity then you need to be in peak condition.

High performers know this and utilise this to their advantage.

Putting it Together

These strategies are utilised by some of the most productive people in the world and they have worked for me too! If you want to improve your productivity, try one or two of these tactics… it could revolutionise your life!

The top ten excuses to give up on your goals

When you have big goals, you will know bringing them to life is hard work. Often it is easier to tell ourselves our goals are not achievable. Often we tell ourselves we should compromise.

If you have a goal you are finding difficult to move forward, here is a list of the best excuses you can use to give up… Of course, I have also added my thoughts to why you should never quit with these excuses.

1. My goals are unrealistic

Good! Being realistic is the fastest way to becoming average! Anybody who ever achieved anything of note was unrealistic… That is how progress is made. Congratulations, you have joined a very special club of people. People who can change the world around them!

2. I am not good enough

This is probably true… You might have some natural talent, but it will only take you so far. The only way ANYONE gets to be ‘good enough’ is hours and hours of practice. If you are not good enough right now, practise harder, longer and more consistently than ever before. Over time you WILL become good enough.

3. Other people will think I am stupid

woman-saying-no1Other people will ridicule you, laugh at you and tell you you can’t (they will even do this when you have achieved your goals!!). At the end of your life, will you measure success based on how bland and average you were or will you measure success on achieving your potential?

If you want to be bland, give up on goals now, don’t do anything worth any attention. If you want your life to be measured on what you contributed… Then you know you can’t quit.

4. I don’t know what to do

If this is your excuse, you are probably accurate. What the most successful people in the world do in this situation is simple. If they don’t know what to do, they find out! There are so many people out in the world who are living out your goals, find out what they did, copy them!

5. I will probably fail

Yep… this will most likely turn out to be correct. The bottom line is, people who achieve massive success have failed more times than you. The difference between success and failure is that the successful learn from failure. They recover from failure. They keep taking action until they they don’t fail, they take action until they win.

Failing is inseparable from success. You just have to choose how you will face failure… If you want to achieve your goals, then embrace failure, learn from it and become better from it.

6. I don’t have the time

“To busy is a myth. People make time for the things that are really important to them.”

Mandy Hale

This is simply not true. If you MUST do something, then you WILL do it. If you don’t have the time, it is because it is not a MUST… instead it is a SHOULD. The difference between must’s and should’s is the fracture between taking the action you need and letting other stuff get in the way.

If you don’t think you have the time ask yourself this “If someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to take action on my goals, would I find the time?”.

When things become a MUST, those things happen.

7. It is not perfect yet

This is just another way of saying “I will probably fail”. There is no perfect time, there is no perfect moment. You have to create the time, you have to create the moment. This will ultimately mean there is a risk of failure involved. Embrace it, learn from it and become better from it.

8. I don’t have the resources

pragmatic-resourceful-educator-life-skillsPlease refer back to excuse number 6, about MUST’s and SHOULD’s. You can generate and manifest more than you can imagine.

Please don’t take offence to the following question: If your closest loved one needed an operation in six months or they would die and it cost half a million dollars/pounds, would you raise the money?

Of course you would, you probably have no idea how, but you wouldn’t stop until you did it. Now take away the horrible situation. You have the capacity to raise half a million in six months! Don’t say you don’t have the resources!

9. I have already tried and it didn’t work

The difference between winners and losers is that winners keep on going until they win. Losers will try, fail and then stop. It is impossible to succeed without failing, winners know this! Losers don’t stick around to find out!

10. I need to earn a living, so can’t chase my goals just yet

Chasing your goals doesn’t mean you have to give up your job, just yet! Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, didn’t quit his place in Harvard until one year after Microsoft had become a world wide success! If chasing your dreams, while keeping your job is good enough for people like Bill Gates, it is good enough for you!

If you practise, practise and practise achieving your goals and keep on learning and getting better, after a few years you will be in the top 2% in the world at what you do.

There is a massive amount of money available for anyone who is in the top 2% in the world at what they do! Do what it takes to master your craft, be relentless and the money worries will dissipate… Then quit your job!

Bringing it all together

It is easy to tell ourselves we can’t achieve… But when you hear that voice in your head telling you that you are not good enough or you feel afraid of failing, tell yourself a different story, tell yourself you can. If you believe it, you can achieve it.

What do great Leaders actually do?

Leadership is one of the most complex and commonly debated topics in the business and management world today. Everyone has an opinion on what makes leadership and everyone will defend these opinions fiercely.

The fact is, leadership is highly desirable. We all know true leadership can change businesses, industries and the world.

The problem is we can’t all agree on what makes a great leader. The best leaders in the world, any leader for that matter, are all different and that is why we find it so hard to formalise what a leader should do.

Formula for SuccessI think the reason we find it so hard to formalise leadership is because it is not about the leader. Instead it is all about followers.

Followers choose to follow… they cannot be told or forced… They choose.

A leader only becomes a leader if they have followers who have chosen to do so. Without followers, you are not a leader. This is why leadership doesn’t have strict rules or a formula.

Different followers will follow different types of leaders, so the only thing you can do, is be the best version of yourself and if followers choose to follow, then you are a leader…

 

What do followers want?

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I can only answer this question from my own point of view and I am keen to learn what YOU think, so please comment below! Here are five attributes that I believe the very best leaders display in abundance:

Purpose

The best leaders I have ever worked with had a clear personal purpose or vision of who they were and what they stood for. They communicated this purpose as often as possible. If the leader had a purpose that linked closely with my values and beliefs, then I would instantly feel a deep connection and follow this leader with my heart and soul.

Enlist

A leader I know and one I am inspired by, is brilliant at recruiting people who shared the same values and beliefs as he did. As a follower this was a fantastic experience. Being a part of a team who all had a common goal, not because they were told to, but because they wanted to created a huge amount of energy, passion and creativity. I can honestly say that a leader who surrounds themselves with the people who believe in their vision, pushed my performance and results higher than I could have imagined at the time.

Walk the talk

Simon Sinek articulated this beautifully when he described ‘The celery test’ in his book ‘Start with why’. Those leaders who walk the talk, who stand up for their values and will never compromise on those values to get a quick result. These are the type of leaders I love working for, I know they are authentic and I know they will have my back. As a follower I feel trusted, so I give all of my trust freely to them.
Trust – The best leaders I have ever followed have always ensured that I had the skills and capability to do the task in hand and then allowed me to complete that task in my own way. In simple terms they trained, coached, supported and allowed autonomy. The power of supporting people when they need skills and capability and getting out of the way of those same people to allow creativity and ownership is significant. As a follower I don’t want to feel out of my depth and unsupported, yet I also don’t want to feel as though I am being dictated to or controlled. The leaders that have found that balance, I have followed most passionately.

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Encourage and Value

A really simple idea. As a follower I like to know that I am adding value, doing a good job and my behaviours are positive. These factors, being rewarded with encouragement and praise, really boost my confidence and drive me to perform even better. However as a follower this needs to be conducted in an authentic and personal way to get the best out of me, so by that I mean it is not about incentives and bonuses… Don’t get me wrong more money and prizes were nice, but they never made me work harder or inspired me like genuine encouragement would.

Those were the five attributes that I believe the very best leaders display in abundance, what do you think should be in this list? Please comment below! 

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself

Common advice from motivational gurus and experts would normally go along the lines of; “Face your fears and overcome them”.

I think a little differently. I think fear is going to play a part of our lives, no matter what, and we should use it rather than try to remove it.

Fear is a deeply routed emotional state that was created, to help us avoid pain and danger. When fear is in full swing it is a great motivator… it increases heart-rate, boosts energy levels and can improve performance levels. That can be really useful if used in a situation where you need to avoid real and genuine danger!

The common problem we face, is that we attach the feelings of fear to things we have nothing to be fearful of… Things like failure.

If we are fearful of failing, rather than being a helpful feeling, fear can be destructive and debilitating. Fear of failing could easily stop us striving for success. Think about it for a moment – If you strive to be a success, then that means you will have to inevitably take some positive action. The problem is, whatever action you take is not guaranteed to be successful, so therefore taking action produces a risk of failing.

The risk of failing will create fear and as we know, fear will equip and motivate us brilliantly… However, it will be the wrong type of motivation, we will be motivated to not take the action we need to take in order to be successful!

That is not good news for any long-term success strategy.

Fear should not be connected to success or failure – If you currently do, only you can break this pattern.

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What are your rules on failure and success?

Take a moment or two to think about this – It is easy to dismiss this question, but when you give yourself the time and space to genuinely answer you might find some surprises.

What does it take to become a success? What does it take to become a failure?
Are the answers you give to those questions realistic? Are your answers based on fixed criteria (like an amount of money, a certain job or a specific event) or are they based on consistent growth and improvement?

Are the answers you gave, even your answers or are you trying to achieve someone else’s perception of success?

What should our rules be?

The most important aspect to remember is success and failure are both just a feeling… They are not a job, they are not an event and they are not an amount of money either!

You have complete access to your feelings at any given moment. It isn’t an external process, so things don’t have to happen to you in order for you to feel successful. It can be as simple as just deciding and then taking action towards growth.

You are free to decide your own rules on success – my advice? Choose growth and progression. Choose to be fearful of failing to take action rather than fearing the results of those actions.

Choose to feel the fear of failing to take action as much as possible!

The Real Reason Why You Procrastinate (it’s not about being lazy)

First of all let’s crack open a common myth… IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING LAZY!! Some of the most hard working people I know (including me!) have been prone to massive bouts of procrastination…

The answer appears at first to be silly… here it is… Procrastination is more pleasurable than completing the task. Put simply you procrastinate to get pleasure.

“Procrastination is like a credit card: It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill”

Christopher Parker

I realise it sounds counterintuitive, please give me a moment to explain…

Would you deliberately choose to attain pleasure in your life and also simultaneously try to avoid pain as much as you can? It’s an obvious answer, of course you like pleasure and dislike pain… who on earth doesn’t?

So, now we can safely assume that in our basic decision making process’s of everyday life …on the most basic level… we will try to gain pleasure (because it’s nice) and avoid pain (because it’s nasty).

How Pain Can Define our actions

Procrastination can hurt us right? It can cause us pain? So surely if this crazy idea were to be true, we would never procrastinate… as when we do, we cause pain. The pain of regret, pain of missing objectives, pain of increasing stress and so on…

In real-life most decisions have a combination of both pleasurable and painful aspects no-matter what action you take… so our decisions are made, primarily, by the factors that FEEL and LOOK more real and vivid in the moment.

You may logically KNOW that procrastinating isn’t good for you in the long run,  but that doesn’t define your action… your action is determined on your perception that, in the moment, procrastination is perceived as giving more pleasure or less pain to you.

A common example in my life is when when an important report, presentation I have to complete and I just know its going to be hard… you will probably know what I am talking about and remember a similar situation in your life… and you didn’t take any significant action until the last moments, even though that wasn’t the best way to deal with the situation. You procrastinated because the pain of having to sit down and prepare for and complete the task felt bigger, felt more real than the pleasure you would feel by taking the action required to complete the task.

You then filled your time doing other stuff – either completely “veging out” or updating your status on Facebook or maybe you did other things like housework (yes – doing other boring jobs seemed less painful and more pleasurable in that moment than doing the task in hand!)

Then the deadline got closer and closer… and the perception of pain and pleasure started to shift… as the deadline approached, so did the pain of what would happen if you failed to deliver… and as your perception shifted so did your actions – you took the actions needed to complete the task.

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Your perception of the things you want to do in your life will determine your actions – even if logic says the opposite. If you want to get fit and healthy, but the perception you have is that it will be hard, painful and burdensome… you will procrastinate forever, even though we all know being healthy is a good thing to do!

So how do we crack it???

As with almost every post I ever do the answer is simple… To improve your life, we need to improve our questions… Ask questions that make taking action massively pleasurable… that makes procrastination excruciatingly painful.

Lets try an experiment (and please feedback to let me know if it gets you to crack procrastination)

Get a pen and paper and write down an area in your life you are procrastinating with right now… ask yourself these questions, then write down the answers as comprehensively as you can:

What 10 amazing feelings will I feel when I have completed the actions needed?

What 10 awful feelings will I avoid by completing this task now?

How will I have fun completing the actions needed?

Stop enjoying procrastination… Go smash it instead!