Tag Archive for productivity

Self-Limiting Behaviors

Have you reached your full potential in your current situation? While my focus is typically on women’s career success, a personal life review (particularly at this time of year) also merits some healthy introspection. We were born with an unlimited capacity to think, create, achieve and love.  Through the innumerable situations we experience, we either ‘grow and go’ or ‘slip and slide’.  The difference in our reaction is locked within our thinking patterns and self-belief, which combine to form limiting behaviors that either propel us forward or keep us grounded firmly in fear.  A limiting behavior or belief can be like a broken record or set of tapes that play a continuous loop in our minds, typically in our subconscious.  They are riddled with negativity.  Sometimes we are vaguely aware of them, often they’ve been there for so long we just accept them as the norm.  Let’s explore.

What are the top limiting behaviors?  In my over 25 years experience in working with women in all levels of management, three limiting beliefs rise to the top again and again.  They play out in the professional world, to be sure, but can also play a significant role in our personal lives.

1.  Not enough self-love – This is the number one issue so many women face.  It’s also the best-kept secret many women hide.  You would be amazed at the number of powerful women I have coached over the years whose outward presence, confidence and communication style exude success.  Yet, when we dig a little deeper, sometimes just beneath that seemingly solid shell, what lies beneath is a lack of self-love.  The reasons are manifold; a childhood issue, an unresolved relationship, a past (perceived) unforgivable error, and the biggest culprit – the comparison game.

The common thread among each reason is also the most important yet challenging thing to accept; the past cannot be changed.  A perfect upbringing is virtually nonexistent. Relationships and errors of the past are ancient history; most often only thought of in the prisons of our own mind.  Granting forgiveness to someone that hurt you, or to yourself for a past error is one of the biggest gifts and favors you can give yourself.  Doing so enables negative feelings to flow out and positive thoughts and the beginning to self-love to take root.

You are a masterpiece of your past; from the genes you received at birth and the formative years of learning to life experiences and choices, you are who you are.  Small changes are possible, but for the most part what you see is what you get; both in the mirror and in your mind.  My point?  Stop the comparison game!  Embrace who and what you are (the good and bad) and use it all to the best of your ability.  You will never be the best ________________ or the worst ____________.  Fill in the blanks for yourself.  With almost 7.5 billion people on the planet and over 330 million in the US, this is an undeniable truth.  Accepting yourself as who you are and were created to be is the beginning of self-love and one step away from self-limiting behaviors.

2.  Not enough ‘other-love’ of other women – If we suffer from the comparison game (and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all afflicted at some point) it festers on the inside, but worse, it creates significant damage in its outward manifestation.  Negative thoughts and energy don’t just sit in a vacuum.  They flow outward and reach others whether in body language, written or verbal communication, or in the way we treat people.  And no one is immune.  Just as we have our own strengths and talents to use, the same is true for other women.  However, if you play the comparison game, it is one of the biggest barriers to collaboration, creativity, achieving a mission and bonding.

When we busy ourselves not liking ‘her’ because she speaks up for what she wants, maybe a better approach is to appreciate the assertiveness skills that can be helpful in bringing a negotiation to a close.  If you don’t like that ‘she’ is too bossy, try to appreciate that someone can lead others to get the job done.  Ultimately, remember that those same women (and men) all have their own insecurities and self-doubt.  This applies to women in all areas of our lives; business colleagues, relatives, neighbors, in volunteer situations, etc.

Instead, make a commitment to stop comparing, and replace those thoughts and feelings with acts and words of empowerment.  You will be amazed at the difference in your own thinking and feeling, in the relationships you have with other women, and in their behavior.  For example, when you publicly recognize someone for a job well done the positivity has a domino effect.  Your positivity reflects well on yourself and feels good, the recognition is both motivating and affirming to the person receiving it, and others are motivated to both do well and emulate your behavior.  Such positive outcomes won’t happen immediately or spontaneously, but over time the payout will create an environment where everyone feels more loved, accepted and able to reach their fullest potential.  Ultimately, working harmoniously and practicing ‘other-love’ for women will dispel and help eliminate limiting beliefs and thinking.

3.  Now, claim your power! – After clearing the way for positive thoughts for yourself and toward others by emptying out negativity and eliminating the comparison game, it’s time to claim your power!  That’s right!  Your power; it lies deep within you and was there from the moment your conception.  Think about it – what a process to become a human being.  That’s a lot of power. Learning to eat, talk, walk, run, think and other life skills; that all takes a lot of power.  When we are young and full of imagination, we believe we can do and become anything.  Yet, somewhere along the way, we begin to collect untruths, limiting beliefs and restrictive behaviors, which all combine to hold us back and restrain our power.

The good news is that the same power we were born with, tapped into as a young child and now call upon occasionally still resides within us.  But, oh do we have our reasons for letting it lie dormant.  Although we want to be successful in our career and other important areas of our lives, so many women hold back due to fear of success.  At first glance, it’s a paradox.  If we possess the power to achieve, what are we waiting for? Why hold back?

No one answer is the same or true for each woman, but I have discovered a common list:

  • If I succeed at first, how will I continue, and will I have the strength to keep it up?
  • What will others think of my success, and how will they treat me, especially if it means a promotion?
  • What if I claim my power and fail at what I try?
  • What if I make the wrong decision either in the short or long term?
  • It won’t feel safe or secure, and I will be out of my comfort zone.

Fear of failure or use of personal power often leads people to ask for more information before they will decide to move forward.  It makes people stuck.  If you feel stuck, I would love to help you work out a plan of success to move forward. Please give me a call at (513) 561-4288  or connect with me via email at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or so we can tap into your power together!

Dealing with Lack of Motivation

We’ve all suffered from lack of motivation in our careers at some point, there’s no way around it.  External stress factors beyond our control, negative emotions, feeling overwhelmed with the task at hand, feeling ill equipped; these are just a sampling of reasons that may impact our motivation levels.  Whether for an hour, a day or a season, dealing with lack of motivation is a common issue for which many of my clients seek resolution.  People ask for a secret formula or silver bullet with which to combat lack of motivation.  Oh, how I wish I had the cure!  People are often surprised when I share that the best recipe for lack of motivation is creating a vision of passion and purpose.

That prescription doesn’t always settle well.  Some clients actually ask me if I can inspire and motivate them, either through a pep talk, words of wisdom, or actually checking in and keeping tabs on their progress with a certain project.  The last of which I would never agree to.  News flash folks – relying on others to motivate you doesn’t work!  Sure you can gain inspiration from a book, a class, a Ted Talk, or even enlist the help of an accountability partner, but sustained motivation must come from within.

Motivation isn’t conjured through emotion or the environment.  You can’t wait until the mood is right, or strikes you just so.  Neither can you wait for the circumstances in your life to align in the perfect fashion.  Waiting for the precise mood and perfect setting is like counting on the lotto to serve your financial future; it ain’t gonna happen.

Creating and sustaining motivation begins with identifying your vision.  What do you really want out of life, or in the short-term?  If you’re not sure what your short or long-term goals are, you have a little work to do before you can get motivated.  Create a list of things you want in the short-term and in the future; maybe even as it relates to retirement.  Make sure they are achievable and realistic.  With my individual coaching clients, I provide them with a set of vision questions that always jump starts the process.  Above all make sure it is your vision, and that it is aligned with your spirit and your passion.  This is a very important distinction and part of the process.  You must be true to yourself when determining what you want, anything short of that will hinder the process of motivation.  My point here, is that if your goal is actually someone else’s dream for you, or their dream that they want you to be a part of, it won’t fill your heart with hope.  Others’ expectations of us often hinder us from living out our own vision or dreams, which is no way to live, and is certainly not motivational.

Which brings me back to the prescription for motivation.  Once you’ve identified your own future goals, bring them to life with a ‘vision board’.  Whether it’s a dream home, new car, vacation, new wardrobe, promotion, or certain retirement lifestyle, imagine what that looks like.  Using either a small poster board or document on the computer, fill it with pictures and words of your short and long-term goals that comprise your dreams.  Put the board in a place where you will see it every day; on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, in your office or workspace.  Over time, you can add to it, or change aspects of it if necessary.

Now, with the end goal in mind (and your vision board), remember why you started in the first place to help you with motivation.  You may not currently be in your dream job, or particularly excited about the project or task in front of you, but remember this: it is a means to an end.  Knowing that the work at hand is part of the path to your future dreams will motivate you if you make that connection in your mind.  Piecing work tasks and projects together over time are the building blocks to your vision.  Holding that knowledge top of mind will serve as an excellent source of motivation.

Is a vision board a fail-safe, sure-fire method to motivation?  Of course not.  However, it is an excellent way to deal with the negative emotions that can be de-motivators and hold us in our patterns of inactivity.  And, although no one can intrinsically motivate you, and be responsible for your actions, you can surround yourself with positive people and enlist their help.  Share your hopes and visions with a friend, spouse, significant other, or trusted colleague.  Sometimes a more neutral party, or a coach, can be most effective in aiding you in your vision.  If you feel comfortable, show them your vision board.  If they are willing, ask your accountability partner or coach if you they can check in with you once or twice a month.  Not that they will play the role of keeping you on task, but to serve as someone who might offer up a sobering dose of reality, or knock you out of an immobilized state if you’re feeling stuck.

Just a word of warning as I close.  As I mentioned, we all suffer from lack of motivation from time to time.  It’s just part of life.  However, if you are feeling chronically unmotivated, and at the same time not finding joy in the things you used to enjoy, you may be suffering from depression.  If you feel this describes your situation, please seek the help of a physician or mental health professional.  Identifying the root of the problem is essential.  If you suffer from typical lack of motivation, and would like help identifying your goals and dreams, and making the connection work for you, I would love to help.  Please reach out either via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call me directly at 513-561-4288.

Creating Laser Focus

March is Women’s History Month, and a good time to think about the historic imprint you will leave on those around you.  What kind of legacy are you leaving behind for the women in your life; daughters, nieces, co-workers, women whom you mentor, or manage?  Involvement in purposeful projects, events and missions that create positive, meaningful outcomes is a very effective way to make your personal mark on history.  Such a goal takes the discipline of moving along things that must get done (tasks, errands, routine work responsibilities), and creating room for these important things that will leave a lasting legacy.  It also requires thoughtful weekly planning, and the skill of executing your ideas and work with efficiency and focus. Let’s explore this further.

Is staying focused on the work in front of you a challenge?  Do you find yourself starting and restarting a task multiple times because of distractions, interruptions or because of your own sidetracking thoughts?  If so, you are not alone.  A study published in Psychology Today by Larry Rosen, PhD, observed the study habits of 300 middle school, high school and university students.  Rosen and his team were startled by the results which showed that, on average, students were only able to focus on their studying for three minutes at a time, with nearly all of their distractions coming from technology.  The researchers found similar results with computer programmers and medical students.  The biggest technology offenders were smartphones, and the very computers on which the research participants were either studying or working!

The truth is, we have too many inputs vying for our attention; ring tones, instant messaging, reminder alerts, buzzing email, text tones, and even Facebook and social media notifications!  Then there are meetings, phone calls, crisis situations and office chatter.  It’s endless, and those examples don’t even include our own distracting thoughts such as the errands to run, bills to pay, family schedules and more.  If we are not careful, interruptions can bounce us around like a ping pong ball all day long.  Are you letting distractions take your attention and keep you from being focused, or are you in the driver’s seat of your life?

If staying on task is challenging you, I offer you a double-pronged approach that will help create laser focus.  First is a commitment to weekly goal planning.  The second is mindfulness, but we will come back to that later.

I am convinced making a weekly plan with goals is the first step to successfully creating habits that lead to laser focus.  Most of us are familiar with the Covey method of project planning, or perhaps you’ve used other techniques, or your own version of task prioritization and organization.  The question to ask yourself is, do you use it consistently, without fail?  The weekly planning process needs to be a top priority if you want to drive your success in meaningful areas, versus being pulled along the path of uncertainty, and only accomplishing small tasks.

Weekly planning takes foresight and commitment.  When creating your plan, consider and identify these key elements before creating it:

1.  Top priorities for the week – what must absolutely get done?  Remember the following in this process:

You can’t:

  • Do it all – focus only on the impactful, meaningful and important
  • Please everyone
  • Always say yes
  • Have blurry boundaries

You can:

  • Get first things done first – leave or delegate small tasks for another time
  • Please yourself with a job well done
  • Say yes to top priorities
  • Set up respectable boundaries

2.  Top energy zones – when are you most productive?

  • Morning or afternoon?
  • Before or after a workout, lunch or break?
  • Alone or with others around?

These are the two key questions to ask yourself when planning and prioritizing for the week – what do you have to do, and when are you at your best to complete them? From this genesis, you can create your ideal schedule with attainable goals.  Don’t overschedule yourself, or spread yourself too thin.  Leave white space for emergencies, and margins for thinking and creativity.  Once you’ve successfully prioritized and scheduled your week’s goals, congratulate yourself, and make a date with yourself to do it again – same time, same place next week.  Use that smart phone wisely.  Set a reminder on Sunday to review the upcoming week and plan out your productivity!

With the first step of the approach to laser focus complete (planning), your stage is set for step two.  The second step to obtain laser focus on a daily basis is by practicing ‘mindfulness’.  Mindfulness is ‘a state of active, open attention on the present’.  With practice and patience you can actually ‘reprogram’ your brain to be in a state of mindfulness throughout the day.  To prepare yourself (your brain really) for a mindfulness approach to laser focus during the work day, it is important to begin your day with a deeper sense of mindfulness.

To be clear, I’m not pushing a brand of spirituality or religion, but rather a method by which you can clear your mind, obtain some peace, and get grounded for the day ahead of you.  To that end, I am proposing that prior to the start of your work day, you spend 10 minutes in a quiet, peaceful state in an attempt to empty your mind of thoughts and feelings by the process of recognizing them when they come into your brain, but then letting them go without reacting to them.  You can do this upon waking, before you leave for work, on the drive to work, at your desk, or in the car before you go into the office (especially if being completely still at your desk will have co-workers wondering if you are OK!)

The goal of practicing 10 minutes of deep mindfulness sets your brain into action, rather than leaving it vulnerable to reaction.  It prepares your brain for approaching work with basic mindfulness (the ‘a state of active, open attention on the present’), and ultimately a laser focus.  Practice and patience are essential to maintain basic mindfulness in order to achieve laser focus.  The technology distractions listed earlier are the biggest culprits of distraction, but there are others.  How many of the following do you identify with?

  • Conversations at your desk
  • Phone conversations that last too long (personal or professional)
  • Checking and responding to non-essential email and social media
  • Thoughts of personal/home issues
  • Multiple projects at once
  • Snacking, coffee or water run
  • Non-urgent tasks (cleaning email inbox, organizing files, making lists, etc.)

The first step in avoiding these distractions is to recognize them as just that.  It may be that you are not even aware that these activities are robbing you of your time, productivity and prohibiting you from laser focus on the task at hand.  Mentally go through a day at work, and write down everything that distracts you and places your brain in a reactive mode.  Then, pick the top three things to conquer first.  Now, make a plan for proactively responding to them when they occur.  Below are some examples:

Conversations at your desk Close your door, or put up a sign requesting no interruptions
Telephone interruptions Let it go to voicemail
Conversation getting too long Explain that you have a deadline
Checking email too much Designate two or three times a day to check email, responding only to those pertaining to your plan for the day, or minimally reply with a time and date you will get respond.
Multiple projects at once Put away other work project
Text messages Set your timer to work for 15 – 30 minutes solid, then take 3 or 5 minutes to check and respond to relevant text messages.  Non-urgent messages can wait.
Thoughts of personal/home issues Keep a list of things to address at a later time
Being diverted outside your workspace Don’t engage in miscellaneous interruptions from co-workers


While some of these responsive techniques may seem too radical, they are perfectly acceptable ways to create boundaries for yourself and create ‘a state of being active with open attention on the present’ (mindfulness) enabling you to laser focus.  The process of choosing to actively engage in the task at hand rather than react to stimuli takes discipline. While you won’t achieve laser focus on the first day, you will be surprised at how quickly practicing mindfulness will begin to yield laser focus and positive results.

Weekly planning sessions coupled with the daily mindfulness approaches I’ve described will do so much more for you than help you achieve laser focus.  It will empower you to be in complete control of your thoughts and actions.  It will also reward you with additional mental space and opportunities to produce creative, quality and meaningful work.  These opportunities are the foundation from which your lasting legacy can flow.  Keep a diary of your accomplishment and successes as a result of your new approach.  This will motivate you to continue your practice of laser focus, build self-confidence, and make your mark on history.  When you train your brain to use both states of mindfulness to the point where it becomes natural and exciting, you will have mastered the art being able to laser focus.