Efficiency Through Focus

Introduction

Welcome to Episode 1 of the Coaching Hive podcast. I am your host, Dr. Moira and it is great to be here with you today. We look at topics and concerns that impact health coaches along their journey to guiding clients to improved health and wellness. The Coaching Hive empowers coaches to be focused with their learning intentions while maintaining forward business momentum.

At the Coaching Hive, we strive to be effective, efficient, and have fun so that work becomes a joy and you still have time for the important things in life like your family, friends, and hobbies. Yes, I said hobbies. If you are thinking there isn’t time for hobbies, you might be right. There have been seasons of life where hobbies weren’t possible, and other seasons where I simply didn’t work efficiently, effectively, and in a way that prioritized self-care.

As an educator with over 15 years of experience and coach instructor for the past 6 years, my schedule is always packed, and I have become an expert in efficiency.

This podcast is rooted in learning and efficiency. In fact, to be more effective and efficient, each month we will focus on a new topic. That means 12 new learning topics a year AND time to dig in without feeling overwhelmed.

Let’s talk a little about how the process works. The first week of each month, we will concentrate on getting on the same page, talk briefly about the topic and where we are headed. We might even complete an action item to get you in the mindset for the month. Then, throughout the month we will zero in on the important concepts and details. We will wrap up each month with a “Put It In Action” challenge. This challenge gives you a chance to put into practice what we have been talking about throughout the month in a specific and detailed way.

Just like me, you might be busy and listening to this podcast as you take care of other tasks. These podcasts will always be child friendly, so go ahead and play it through your speaker while you fold clothes, prep your dinner, or make the bed.

Now that we have those details out of the way and you know where we are headed, on to this month’s topic!

The Topic

In the beginning of a new year, we often find ourselves setting new goals, setting intentions for this to be the year that everything goes smoothly, and choosing a word for the year (gosh, I see this all over my Facebook feed and no, before you ask, I have never come up with a word for the year because I worry it will lock me onto a path). What this all boils down to is the idea that you are finding your focus. Just like we use focusing tools such as agenda mapping with our coaching clients to help them find focus, we must also be intentional about finding focus.

This month, the Coaching Hive podcast will be all about focusing for efficiency. Being focused and efficient often allows you to accomplish what you set out to do AND without the feeling of overwhelm. What could be better?

Let me give you a quick example of what I mean before we jump into the details. I love to learn and read. In fact being a learner is my number 1 strength according to the Clifton Strengths Finder. This means that as a professor and instructor I am probably in the right career, but it also means that I am constantly piling up books, articles, websites, and podcasts to devour. The problem comes in that there is not time to go through EVERYTHING I pick out. I have to focus in on what is most important, set priorities, and then make some cuts. Not everything has to be read or listened to right now. Some items might go onto an “optional” list. Without finding focus for my learning goals, it can feel overwhelming.

Harvard Business Review reports that feeling overwhelm can actually lead to cognitive fatigue, difficulty thinking clearly or logically, and even mental slowness.

None of these sound ideal, but you know what? There are ways to reduce overwhelm and chief among them is to set boundaries.

Tip #1

So, tip number 1 for today? Remove the items, tasks, or goals that do not serve you. In other words, finding your focus can help you to be more effective. If you are reducing the cognitive fatigue and mental slowness of overwhelm, you will likely see an increase in efficiency as well.

Think about a time when you were exhausted. That simple, or maybe even complex, task you had to complete took twice as long, right? As a coach instructor, I have the unique opportunity to provide health coaches with feedback and mentoring on their coaching sessions. This feedback, when I’m well-rested and not overwhelmed, flows with ease. It is something that I look forward to and genuinely love. When I am overwhelmed, this same task becomes more mentally taxing and it just takes longer. I’m not being effective or efficient and often I set the task aside and engage in some self-care so that when I return, I AM efficient and effective.

So, start asking yourself where you need to find focus to improve your efficiency. Take 5 minutes and make a quick list of all of the items on your “must do” list. Then answer a few questions, Is the task necessary? Is the task time sensitive? Can someone else do the task?

Think about that last question. Can someone else do the task? Did your mind immediately skip to NO! I am the only one who can do this! What if you challenged your thinking a little? Is there someone who is capable of completing the task in an acceptable manner, even if it isn’t “your way”? I know, this is difficult. If you are located in the United States, as I am, our individualist culture says that you need to do things yourself. If you are living in an individualist culture and are considered a minority, this makes the concept of delegating even more difficult. For instance, as a woman in business it is easy to feel that you need to prove yourself by doing things yourself. Let me be the first to tell you, you deserve a seat at the table. You are just as worthy as anyone else.

How about an example of how you can delegate and be ok with something that might be less than perfect in your eyes. As a psychology professor, I have a group of professors with whom I share class plans. We each build an online class for a specific course, put together the tests, assignments, lessons, setup the gradebook, create the syllabus and schedule and then we swap. This way we are distributing the workload as we all teach several sections of multiple courses. And it cuts down immensely on the workload. It frees up hours, if not days of course preparation. Now, the courses I receive are not always how I would create them, and the same goes for them. The student announcements might not be formatted just the way I like, but they’re ok, they are effective, they work. It is a task that I can take off my list knowing that someone CAPABLE is handling it. This takes time and a shift in mindset to implement. I will admit that I struggle a bit more letting go of the laundry folding ideals that I have. Having worked in retail as a teen, I just like my shirts folded in a certain way. This is not the way our 9-year-old folds shirts, but the job gets done. I smile, thank him, and appreciate that he has helped without complaint. It is another task off my list.

All of this to say that when you start to find focus by reducing overwhelm, you can move more efficiently through the must do’s on your list. The goals you set are more reasonable, you say no to items that aren’t necessary or helpful to your goals, and you find yourself getting more done.

So far, we have talked about finding focus by reducing overwhelm in our task lists. Whether that is delegating tasks to capable helpers, crossing tasks off completely that aren’t necessary, or prioritizing them to be completed only when there is time, you are creating a more succinct list that feels infinitely more doable.

Tip #2

Why stop with just one tip for today? Why make you wait when there is something you can put into action today, even if you have just 5 minutes to spare? Another way to reduce overwhelm is to thoughtfully construct your working environment. You may have been told, either growing up or as an adult, that you should make your bed every morning. It really starts the day off in a way that allows you to be focused and productive. It creates order. That is the key. Create order.

In an article by Forbes, they recommend, among other things, to clear the clutter in your workspace to create a lower stress environment. One way to do this is to make sure that your workspace is picked up each day. Even if you are one of those people who knows exactly where in a specific stack that specific piece of paper is, it takes time and mental energy to go through the stack and then replace the paper (likely on another stack that you have to now remember so that it can be found later on).

Here is my question for you. What can you do today to bring more focus, efficiency, and less overwhelm to your work life? As coaches we often create physical or virtual stacks of “things to do”. What if you set a timer and take 30 minutes to get as much organized and stored as possible? One day, this meant that I went through the books stacked up and I put them on the bookcase in the order I wanted to read them from left to right. No longer was the cat pushing them off my desk. Another day I entered all of my receipts and tax documents before filing them away correctly. Another stack free from the cat’s swiping paw. And another day I tackled all of my client and student notes. With each item that was stowed correctly, that weight of overwhelm lifted a bit more.

You won’t believe what a difference it makes. As you may know, as of this year we are homeschooling our son. This has been such a fun adventure and with all three of us working from home now, organization is key. During school time this week, we were getting agitated, unfocused, and honestly, downright cranky. We took a time out and I looked around. Our school workspace was a mess. There were projects in various stages of completion with notecards, library books, drafts, books to be read and completed books, spelling and vocab words, the whiteboard was even filled with completed and still-to-be-completed math concepts for the day. It was in that moment of really looking up that I realized our space was contributing to our crankiness, our lack of focus, and lack of efficiency. We set a timer for 20 minutes and worked together to get everything sorted, put in the correct bins, binder clipped like papers, cleaned the white board and even vacuumed up the eraser crumbs. Then we walked away and had afternoon snack. The change when we came back to work was nothing short of a 180 shift. We moved efficiently through our lessons at a time of day where things usually drag, we took joy in putting the final touches on that book report and figured out that stubborn math problem. Now, I freely admit that the hungry monster does play a role in our crankiness, but that was only one small component of this shift. Having a clean workspace to concentrate on one item without the others “staring” at us relieved the pressure and overwhelm. It allowed us to focus and be efficient.

When you are able to create a calm, peaceful work environment, the brain is better able to follow suit. So, what is one stack of stuff that you could tackle today? Maybe you don’t have 30 minutes or even 15. Take the 5 minutes that you do have and sort something. When you have finished sorting your “something”, snap a picture of your cleaned space and send me an email at moira@behealthyhive.com so that we can celebrate together! Post the picture on your social media. Share your win with the world!

Conclusions

With that task in mind, let’s wrap up this episode of the Coaching Hive podcast. To summarize, our focus for this month will be on creating efficiency through finding focus. We talked about the concept of reducing overwhelm today by delegating, or even eliminating tasks from your to do list so that you can focus and work efficiently and effectively on the most important tasks. Then we talked about the concept of cleaning your workspace to allow for efficiency to flow.

Creating focus will allow you to serve your clients with a filled tank of compassion and empathy. It will help you creatively offer choices and ideas when your clients feel stuck, and it will keep you excited about meeting with your clients each and every day.

I hope today’s tips and ideas got your mind going and you are excited to home in a find focus as a path to improving your efficiency this month. In the next two episodes we are going to talk about the myths and truths behind multi-tasking and more practical tips for increasing efficiency through focus. Once we have the basics covered, in the final week of the month, we will dig in and apply what we have learned with our Put It In Action challenge. This month I have a PDF Planner and podcast planned to help you craft a meaningful, effective, and efficient continuing education plan.

Take Action

If you want to jump right in to becoming more efficient, be sure to join our ongoing conversations on Facebook, Instagram (@behealthyhive), and Pinterest (BeHealthyCoachingHive).  Of course, send me your picture of your cleaned up workspace so that we can celebrate together.  

You will find that I try to keep these podcasts brief to fit your schedule with ease but still filled with information to inspire you.  If you find you want MORE than these brief podcasts can offer, be sure to join The Coaching Hive VIP Wait List.  The Coaching Hive is a membership that empowers coaches to take a focused approach to learning with a new topic, master class, Q&A session, and materials each month.  We even have a private mentor community to collaborate through the month on goals, trouble-shoot when you feel stuck, and provide inspiration to keep you going.  I hope to see you in the Hive soon and back here next week for another podcast.  

See you next time!
~Moira

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    Dr. Moira Hanna, Founder of Be Healthy, LLC

    Dr. Moira is a Nationally Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Master Certified Health Coach, with a coaching practice in Upstate SC since 2012. She has a Master of Science in Applied Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Clemson University. She has nearly 15 years of experience as a higher education Psychology professor, adviser, and mentor. Moira has been an instructor with the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute since 2015 and has guided over 500 coaches through the Advanced Coach Training and Techniques Course. Her educational background includes graduate level course work in emotional intelligence, motivation, judgment and decision making, training, evaluation and goal setting, advanced social psychology, psychological tests and measurements, occupational health, individual difference, research design, and quantitative methods.

    Moira spends every free moment with family and friends. Alongside her husband and son, she enjoys getting outside, playing, and generally enjoying the moment. Although Moira enjoys an active lifestyle, she is always ready to rest and relax with a good book, the cat and the dog.