Top tips for deciding whether something is worth your energy and ways to carve out extra time in your day

How many times today have you done something and then thought to yourself, what was even the point of that? It’s easy to get sucked into a continuous wheel of doing things that add no value. Whether you are working for yourself, or in a big corporate organisation, often these pointless energy sappers can be a form of self sabotage or procrastination.

Oh, I know – I used to do this all the time. There would be that report that really needed to be written, but I would spend a bit more time checking time sheets. Or, I knew that I could add most value by going and having a conversation with one of my team. Instead I’d read all those emails that I have been copied into, for no good reason!

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I know that some of the stuff we have to do doesn’t seem to add any value on the face of it – and we have to do it anyway! It’s the other stuff that I am talking about. The things that we have convinced ourselves are vital, take up our time, and yet we are not really sure why!

You can break this cycle of spending time doing things that you don’t need to do.

Firstly, you need to recognise the difference between the stuff that has to be done verses the stuff we have added in to our processes.

Even having recognised something as a ‘must do’, ask yourself a few questions.

Is it a corporate or legal requirement? If it is, then can you streamline the process in any way? Does it have to be YOU who does it?

For example, those timesheets I referred to earlier. It didn’t need ME to check them all. Yes, they had to be checked. Yes, as the team leader you need to know if something is amiss. But, checking them could be done by anyone other than the person submitting them. Peculiarities can be highlighted to you to act on.

“Ahh, but!” I hear you say. “What if the person checking them can’t be trusted to do that.” If this is the case then the problem you need to resolve is one of trust and accountability. Spot check occasionally if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Many, many years ago, when I was a junior clerk, I recall asking a senior officer why they were stood at the photocopier, waiting for copies to come off. That was my job! They told me that they were so busy they didn’t have time to pass the work to someone else (me) to do, and anyway they disliked passing down the mundane tasks.

That didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t now. We convince ourselves that it is quicker to do something ourself. Or that we should ‘muck in’ and do some of the so called ‘menial’ tasks ourselves.

Of course that doesn’t make sense.

It’s better to put a system, or some training, in place to ensure that work is being carried out at the appropriate level.

It’s not a case of being too grand to do certain tasks but thinking about the cost of your time.

I learnt a lot from the ‘menial’ tasks when I was in a more junior position. Not least, that there was a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that my role was a vital one. I knew that I was playing my part in ensuring the organisation ran efficiently.

Even today, whenever I carry out tasks, I always ask myself, ‘does this need to be me?’.

If the answer is yes, my next question is ‘How can I streamline or simplify the process’.

Systems make our lives easier. If you have a simple system for carrying out a process you can save countless minutes – and all those minutes add up. Alerts, reminders, calendar entries, tasks list all readily available on your computer can play a huge part. But, so often they are not used effectively. In addition there are a raft of work planning and tracking systems out there if you have the budget.

Avoid double handling of work. Cut out duplicate entries of data. Do you have 2 spreadsheets which do the same thing, or could be made to meet multiple needs?

This might all seem obvious but so often in my conversations with team leaders, the simple fixes have not been explored.
If the task is not a corporate or legal requirement, ask yourself why you do it.
Does it add value in some way? If you have a client base does it add value to your customer?
Or, is it something you have always done because you were told that it should be done? When we step back and look at what we are doing in this way we can find that we have tasks on our to do list that we don’t need to do at all. We have always done them, without thinking.

Again this seems too simplistic.
Why would we do things that we don’t really need to? We do though, all the time. Often these things are our security blanket. We feel comfortable doing them. It gives us the excuse we need to put off doing something more challenging.

But, if you are always under pressure, too busy, to stop and talk to your team members. Or drowning under the endless to do list. Then have a very good look at what is on that list.

Do YOU need to do it?

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Imposter syndrome? It’s not just you.

Impostor syndrome is the name given to self doubt about your accomplishments and the internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Those of us with impostor syndrome tendencies can have low self-confidence and a fear of failure. We experience an internal struggle between achieving success and avoiding being “found out.”

This in turn can hold us back from reaching our full potential.

It’s surprisingly common, particularly in women. It’s also very easy to feel like ‘it’s just you’. But I can promise you it’s not!

Having been plagued with this all my life it has recently hit me hard again, precisely because of my blogs.

After all, who am I to be advising others on leadership skills? Who would want anything that I have to offer? Who am I kidding, trying to help others when I have plenty of my own issues?

Those of us who suffer from this tend to be very self critical. Even when we do something well we will brush away praise, be flippant about success. We tend to overwork, people-please, and experience stress and depression.

So I took a step back. It was the first time ever that I have done this. In my career I have always ploughed on regardless and kept my fears and anxiety with me.

In taking that step back I spent some time to think about what this fear is really about, and how I could fast-track my way back to my path.

I came to the realisation that by spotting the symptoms I had the perfect opportunity to develop my own self-awareness in this area.

I also reminded myself that ultimately, my purpose is to help others. So how could I use my experience to help others? By getting back on this particular horse, of course.

So if you are a fellow sufferer of this restricting syndrome here are my top lessons learnt.

It’s not all your fault!
Human beings are engineered to worry. It’s helped us to survive, by being cautious.

Also, the culture we grow up in and the way we were brought up have an impact. For example, British people tend to own their success less well than our American counterparts.

As children we want to fit in and that can lead us to dampening down our natural self to please other people.

But, whilst we might not be able to change the reasons for our feelings we can change the impact they have on us.

And step one, is to recognise them.

The voice in your head.
Have you noticed that the negative voice in your head seems to have a megaphone, but the positive one whispers?

I’m not saying you should stop listening to the negative voice. In fact on occasion, it will have something useful to say that you might need to take account of.

What I do suggest is turning up the dial on the positive voice. Often the positive voice will be counteracting the negative voice and you must pay attention to it also.

Listen to both voices, but remember that more often than not the negative voice is saying things that are not REAL. It’s telling you what other people might be thinking or saying – but in reality it doesn’t know! It’s saying what you are used to believing, because that’s always worked for it in the past.
So acknowledge that and then dismiss what it is telling you.

Turn down the volume on the negative voice so you can stop and think about what is real, and what you are just assuming.

I find it helpful to have an image of my positive voice. Someone I trust and admire and who I know would have my best interests at heart. That turns my positive voice into my very own cheerleader.

You don’t have to be perfect
We are all works in progress. You don’t need to be perfect all the time. It’s okay to sometimes mess up. Find something to learn from the situation and move on quickly. Going over and over it in your head is not going to change what happened. It will simply drag you down when you could be getting on and fixing the matter.

Being wrong doesn’t make you a fraud. People get things wrong all the time. Successful people recognise this for what it is. Accepting you made a mistake will always make you a better person, not a worse one.

Accept what you have achieved
You will have achievements big and small scattered through your life. Know that you can do things well, because you have evidence of them. When the imposter syndrome starts to raise its head draw on the experience you have had of success. If you succeeded before you can do it again.

Stop worrying about what people think of you
They are probably too busy with their own imposter syndrome to be thinking anything about you. Generally people are glad that someone else has shown that they are not perfect either as it makes them feel better about themselves.

Avoid comparison-itis
Comparing yourself with others is very unhelpful. You are not them , you are you. And you are the best person in the world at being you. So just STOP it!

Recognise Imposter Syndrome
Say to yourself, “this is imposter syndrome’. It starts to lose its power when you see it for what it is.

For myself, I have come to realise that it’s because I am just like anyone else and that I have faced up to my fears, that makes what I have to say valid. It might not be useful to everyone. But, if what I write helps even one person, then I am meeting my aim.

As the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”