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Tag Archives: Margaret Smith life coach

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Our nation is going through a time of unprecedented hardship and fear. In an effort to quell the COVID-19 virus that is spreading like wildfire, many of us are hunkering down at home and only going out for necessities. Though some of our activities might be moved into the virtual space, we all know that isn’t the same. All this alone time can feel isolating and downright scary, but it doesn’t have to be totally terrible.

You have the power to make alone time YOUR time.

Think of it this way: What other time in your life has allowed you to have so much autonomy and control over your schedule? You don’t have to make a long commute; you don’t have people popping into your office every five minutes and interrupting your work flow. Sure, you might be dealing with babysitting your kids at home or working alongside your significant other, but I would still argue that you have an unprecedented opportunity.

How will you use all your newfound “home time?”

I am a big proponent of setting aside time for yourself. Even though you inevitably have other responsibilities, be sure to allot a few minutes every day (even an hour, if you can) that’s dedicated to YOU.

Practice reflection, journaling, or meditation. Think about what you want your personal and professional life to look like after this is all over, and make plans for how you’d like to get there. Perhaps, your plans involve self-improvement steps, such as reading professional development books (I’m planning on putting together a list for my next blog post) or taking online courses.

If learning a new skill (such as coding, video-making, or writing) is part of your personal development plan, you might consider doing a little research to see what, exactly, you need to learn and how you can learn it. Reach out to those who already have these skills, and request resources. Or, you might try combing through an online course bank, such as Udemy or Teachable.

If leadership is part of your personal development plan, try interviewing leaders in your community OR start taking an online leadership course (My 10-Minute Leadership Challenge course is now 50% off to make it more accessible during this troubling time).

No matter which personal development skills you choose to pursue during this time, it is important you make a plan AND stick to it. When you’re at home, it’s easy to let the days drift away in clouds of social media or television. Don’t let that be you! I want you to emerge from this time period, feeling empowered and equipped with a new set of skills to further your professional goals.

If you’re going to be stuck in isolation, you might as well make the most of your time. You’ve got this!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Original article published March 11, 2015

Are you stir crazy? Ready for spring? Ready to walk around in sandals and shorts again? You’re not alone! This time of year tends to make people antsy and irritable, and that kind of attitude can cross over into the workplace.

How can you fight the late-winter agitation? How can you possibly be productive when you’re feeling so tense?

One solution is to spend a few minutes each day in your “inner garden.”

By now, most people accept that meditation is a great way to calm the mind, release stress, and get focused for the rest of the day, but many of us think we’re too busy for such “fluff” like meditation. We’re Americans! We’re trained to soldier through the work day without pausing to think about ourselves or our mental well-being.

I encourage you to pause.

When you’re feeling wound-up or things aren’t quite going your way, dedicate a few minutes to yourself. Find a quiet space in your workplace, close the door, and picture yourself sitting in a beautiful garden. A warm breeze is playing on your cheeks; you’re surrounded by fragrant blooms of red and purple and yellow. Just let yourself sit and be restful—do NOT allow your mind to drift to work or the troubles you’ve had that day, and if your mind does wander, gently bring it back to the garden.

If you’re having trouble picturing your “inner garden,” hop online for a few minutes and search for images of “beautiful gardens” or “peaceful gardens.” Then, use one of those images as your focal point as you allow your mind to drift to your garden.

Try building up to ten minutes of meditation time. If that seems like too much at first, start with five minutes. Even though this may not seem like a significant chunk of time, you’ll be amazed at how relaxed and refreshed you’ll feel at the end of it.

I challenge you to visit your inner garden every day this week and see how it helps your attitude and productivity. Until the flowers ACTUALLY bloom again, I hope this technique will help you relax and rejuvenate so you can take on any challenge the day might offer.

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Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay

There are times in life when we feel lower than low. These are the times when your car fails, your plumbing breaks, you get sick, and your boss hands you a bunch of extra work…all in the same week. Or, you might be trying to cope with a traumatic event or a soured relationship. Regardless, life has a way of turning belly-up when you least expect it.

During such troubled times, how on earth can you find inner peace?

1. Remove yourself from the situation

Literally stepping away from the situation gone-wrong (whether it be a tense meeting, a failed dinner recipe, or a laptop with a mind of its own) can help give you space and perspective. Granted, you can’t step away from every situation immediately, but when you can, relocate to somewhere peaceful so you can clear your head. There’s nothing like a little space to give you perspective and time to think things through.

2. Let go

For the things you can’t control (and that includes many things in life), practice letting go. Your frustration over crummy weather, a traffic jam, or a client’s decision to take their business elsewhere won’t get you anywhere. Instead, learn from the situation and move on.

3. Practice gratitude

When things are going awry, it’s often useful to focus on the good things in your life. No matter how bad things get, there will always be one or two things (at the very least!) that are going well. Focus on the positive—your talents and abilities, the healthy relationships in your life, the roof over your head—and let those things carry you through the day.

4. Free write

Journaling or free writing can help you work through your problems and, perhaps, find a solution. At the very least, these activities will help you vent. Find a quiet space, grab a notebook, and go to town. The act of writing is a healthy release, and can help you work through your troubles in a constructive way.

5. Calm your mind

Let your mind release and let go of all that tension you’re carrying on your shoulders! Practice meditation (several different apps, such as Headspace or Calm can help you get started), focus on taking deep breaths, or do something a little more active, like going on a walk or practicing yoga.

6. Treat yourself

If things are really tough, make a point of treating yourself. Schedule a spa day or massage, get a new haircut, or plan a weekend getaway. Even taking yourself out for a nice meal will help. If you have the time, and a little cash to spare, you might even plan a bigger trip for yourself. Studies have found that simply planning a vacation can elevate your mood.

7. See yourself on the other side

Even though things are tough right now, things can and will get better. Picture yourself on the other side of your troubles. Imagine that future you—the one who made it past all your current hardships, and emerged wiser, stronger, and ready to step forward into a brighter world.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

I know how it goes. You attend a professional conference (either by choice or because your company sent you), you learn a few things, you become motivated to make changes…and then you leave and neglect to follow up on any of it.

What good are these events if you never implement anything you learn?

It’s time to change the way we approach conferences. Start with the following four steps:

1. Do Your Homework

Before the conference begins, be sure to look up the schedule and note anything that appeals to you—relevant break-out workshops, lectures on interesting topics, events that might build your network. Going in with a plan helps you be more efficient with your time and prevents you from being roped into a lecture or workshop that might not actually suit your interests.

2. Ask Questions

Once you determine which sessions you’re going to attend, jot down questions you could ask the speaker/presenter. Keeping these questions in mind helps to deepen your relationship with the subject matter and keeps you engaged (if your questions are answered, great! If not, find time to ask them, if possible).

To dive deeper into a topic, ask follow-up questions to fellow attendees as well. Asking open-ended questions such as, “What did you think about [SUBJECT]?” or “What were your take-aways from the presentation?” will stimulate conversation and help keep the topic top-of-mind.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

There’s nothing like a little accountability to help you follow-through on committing to change. If you’re attending the conference with people you know, ask a trusted colleague (or colleagues—the more the better!) if they will agree to be your accountability partner. Say something to the effect of: “I’m really hoping to implement some of the things I learn this coming weekend. Are you hoping for the same? Would you want to do brief check-ins after the conference to make sure we’re both on track?”

Then, follow up! Schedule weekly or bi-weekly check-ins on your calendar (a simple chat over a cup of coffee will probably suffice).

If you’re feeling self-conscious about asking someone to be your accountability partner, try holding yourself accountable by scheduling—and committing to—self-check-ins. Set aside fifteen minutes every week, retrieve your conference notes, and see where you’re excelling and what areas need improvement.

4. Take Notes

Speaking of notes…take them! Jotting down your take-aways (and going over them shortly after the conference) will help you retain the information for longer.

Remember: Many speakers who present at conferences have valuable advice to share. You just have to be willing to listen, absorb it, and act.

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Stressed woman at laptop biting pencil
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

For many leaders, stress seems to become the norm. They are constantly dealing with managing people, projects, and clients…all in between attending many, many meetings.

Stress does NOT have to be the norm. You can still be a good leader AND cut your workload (in fact, freeing yourself up and de-stressing may make you a better leader).

Here are 4 ways to start cutting stress:

1. Delegate

If you want something right, you have to do it yourself, right? …Right?

Not at all.

Sure, if you hand off a task, it might be approached in a different way than what you intended, but that doesn’t mean that approach is wrong. It’s just different…and different can be good! “Different” can bring variety and new ways of thinking or solving problems. Part of delegation means letting go some of your control. It means opening yourself up to others’ methods and perspectives.

Effective delegation involves handing over the reins with enough instructions to make things happen, but also giving a certain amount of freedom to the person who will be performing the task. Remember: even if the person is a bit slow or clumsy at the task at first, they will learn. Give them time.

2. Step Away From the Office

Despite what you might think, you are not a machine. You are human, and humans need to occasionally rest and rejuvenate.

Schedule meaningful breaks into your daily schedule–time when you’re completely unplugged from work. Go on a walk, read a book at lunch, get a massage, or attend your child’s soccer game.

In addition to your small daily breaks, schedule vacations into your year. Even a few days at a cabin on a lake will do wonders for your stress levels.

3. Prioritize

What are the items or tasks that truly need your attention? What are you unable to delegate to others?

Prioritize your task list, based on the assignments you need to handle personally. Your other to-do items can probably be delegated or outright skipped. For instance, are you really needed at every single meeting? Can your team handle certain meetings on their own?

Make a to-do list at the beginning of each week, in addition to the start of each day. This will help put big-picture tasks in perspective. It is also helpful to hold a quarterly planning session to look at the even bigger picture in the office.

4. Make Meaningful Connections

Being a leader can seem lonely at times. To overcome the isolation, make an effort to communicate with others and make meaningful connections. This will inevitably involve being vulnerable and allowing your authentic self to come to the surface.

Of course, you have to maintain some professionalism when communicating with your team, but you shouldn’t be afraid to show them that you’re human. You have interests; you make mistakes; you have a family and a life outside the office walls.

Just the act of reaching out and asking someone about their day will help you form better bonds with that individual. And, when you feel that you have friends (and a support system) in the office, that can cut stress significantly.

As a leader, you don’t have to let stress consume your life! Take charge of your leadership by delegating tasks, taking meaningful breaks, and developing an internal support system. Now, breathe!

If you’d like to read more about how to beat stress, take a look at my post on stress-busting techniques.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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young boy reading and laughing
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Revised from a post originally published in 2015.

We live in a stressful world. Research from the American Psychological Association shows that the majority of Americans experience a significant amount of stress. In a 2014 survey, 67% of those surveyed reported experiencing emotional symptoms of stress and 72% reported experiencing physical symptoms of stress.

One great way to fight your stress is through the power of laughter.

I attended a Brave New Workshop (BNW) class several months ago and one of the subjects they addressed was laughter. BNW is an improvisation group that works with people to boost confidence, connectivity, mental agility, and attitudes. Throughout their classes, you’ll often hear groups roaring with laughter. This isn’t an accident.

According to a publication put out by BNW, “Laughter is a powerful tool in helping individuals move away from fear and into discovery.” In a recent study, researchers from Loma University showed that laughter reduces cortisol, thus reducing stress. Other researchers have shown similar results of the stress-decreasing quality of laughter and have paired it with improved immune system response.

So, watch a funny movie, go to a humorous play, play an interactive board or card game with friends, or take an improv class. Begin to see the humorous side of life 🙂

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Image by SnottyBoggins from Pixabay

A couple months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Tracey Jones speak at the Women’s Business Bridge annual conference in Stillwater, MN. Tracey is an author, speaker, Air Force Academy graduate, decorated Veteran, international leadership expert, scholar, and researcher. She is also the President of Tremendous Leadership. After her engaging presentation, I picked up a copy of her book, Saucy Aussie Living: Top 10 Tricks for Getting a Second Leash on Life. Told from her dog’s perspective, the book is tongue-in-cheek and goofy, BUT there are many valuable lessons embedded in its pages. One such lesson: Hang out with other top dogs and fumigate the “fleas” in your life.

This lesson boils down to the simple truth that when we associate with high-achieving, ambitious, and positive people, those behaviors and attributes WILL rub off on us. The opposite is true too. If we spend all our time with lazy, incompetent, or negative people, we will inevitably start to take on those characteristics.

The lesson of hanging out with other “top dogs” is a great reminder to pause, look around, and notice both the positive and negative influences in your life. Do some people give you energy and motivate you to be the best version of yourself? Great! Spend as much time around those people as possible.

Do others bring you down with constant complaining, excuses, or negativity? Make an effort to step away from those people and remove their influence from your life. Easier said than done, right? How do you “fumigate the fleabags” around you? It may be extremely difficult to step away from negative co-workers, bosses, or family members. What can you possibly do?

1. Create Healthy Boundaries

Do your best to limit interactions with negative individuals by creating healthy boundaries. This may involve only checking and responding to emails from that person once per day or limiting the number of meetings with that person (or choosing to meet online or over the phone).

Creating healthy boundaries also means standing up for yourself. If you feel like someone is taking over your space, speak out. Let the individual know that you need more breathing room and autonomy.

2. Communicate

If you are less than thrilled with someone’s attitude or lackluster performance, talk to them about it. Don’t be confrontational! Instead, approach the issue from an angle of offering to help. You might say something like: “I noticed you’ve missed a few deadlines lately. Is something wrong? How can I help?”

Communication also helps put negative attitudes in check. If, for instance, someone complains about a co-worker, flip it around by saying, “I don’t see her in that light. Besides, I’d rather focus on XYZ project than talk about Amy right now. Let’s go over last month’s numbers…”

3. Find Your Top Dogs

Once you’ve identified the high-achievers around you, start making an effort to associate with those people as often as possible. When you do this, the “fleabags” will naturally be pushed to the side. Additionally, the positive, go-get-em attitude you’ll adapt from your positive influencers will likely carry over into your interactions with less-driven individuals. Your energy and zest may have a contagious effect. Instead of spreading fleas, you’ll be spreading sunshine!

Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to align yourself with like-minded, motivated individuals. Lean on and learn from them, and don’t forget to give your support in return.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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