Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak over the course of several programs in the U.K. with a couple of hundred executives from around the world. During those sessions I was struck by the commonalities of what helps high capacity people lead and live at their best. In fact, when I have the opportunity to talk with executives who have participated in my programs six months or a year later, there are three tactics that are always on the short list of things they’re still doing:
The To-Do Review: Take time at the end of each day to review your to-do list. There are three things to do during the review. First, check off what you’ve accomplished during the day. Then, add anything that came up during the day that you need to follow up on. Finally, identify the two or three things you’re going to do first tomorrow. That three step to-do review gives you a little buzz of accomplishment each day, gives you the calm of knowing you’re not missing or forgetting anything and sets you up to be focused and productive the next day. That’s a lot of leverage off a five minute daily routine.
Visualizing What and How: One of the standard things I cover in any Lead at Your Best; Live at Your Best workshop is to share tactics and strategies that will help the participants show up at their best more often than not. Pretty much everyone who comes to my sessions has a calendar that’s racked and stacked with 8, 9, 10 or even more meetings a day. That kind of schedule seems to be the norm in most companies. We need to work to change that, but in the meantime, there’s a lot of gear shifting that leaders and professionals have to do from topic to topic, person to person and group to group. To help manage all of that gear shifting, you can adopt a simple self-coaching method that I teach my workshop clients. Before the next meeting or conversation starts, take a deep breath and then ask yourself two questions: What am I trying to do in this next meeting? and How do I need to show up to make that outcome likely? What a lot of the leaders I work with are doing as they ask themselves those questions is visualizing the desired outcome in terms of what people know, think, do or feel as a result of the meeting. Then they paint a picture for themselves of how they need to show up in terms of their energy level, their tone of voice, their body language and other factors to make that desired outcome likely. It’s a two or three minute process that can help increase the odds of showing up at your best throughout a hectic day.
Keep Deep Breathing: You may have noticed that the first step in that visualization process I just described was to take a deep breath. That’s not an accident. Taking a few deep breaths from the belly enables you to quickly shift from whatever stressed-out, spun-up state you’re in as a result of what just happened and activate your body’s parasympathetic nervous system so that you can think more clearly about what you’re going to do next. Breathing from your belly helps you make better decisions by balancing your fight or flight response with your rest and digest response. It will also improve your health because it lowers your blood pressure, reduces your stress hormone levels, and strengthens your immune system. Go ahead and try it and see how you feel. Put one hand on your belly, seal your lips gently and take a deep inhale through your nose on a four count, hold it for two counts and exhale through your nose for four counts. Do that two more times. If your belly hand is moving out on the inhale and in on the exhale you’re doing it right. If you get in the habit of doing those three breaths four or five times during the day, you’re going to be a lot healthier, happier and more productive.
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