Life is always a rollercoaster! Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the key activities that are in my life. It doesn’t help that I have a heightened sense of urgency. I like to get things done. It’s my favorite mode. Come up with a strategy, a plan to execute and just go!
But, how do we deal with the overwhelm? First, let’s define what Overwhelm is. I like to define it as ‘treading water’. You’re doing everything just to keep afloat. We’ve all experienced this feeling. It's just hard to see the forest from the trees. It’s just hard to see the plan/ where you’re going, the ultimate goal.
The truth is the chaos that you’re feeling, is coming from inside. Yup, we have lots of things going on in our heads. We need to find a way to take a breath, prioritize and break them into smaller chunks of activities. It does sound way too easy. But I’m here to take the complexity out of it.
Here are a few strategies:
ELEPHANT: First, we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Acknowledge that you are overwhelmed. That’s always the first step.
UNDERSTAND: Why do you feel overwhelmed? Too much to do? Too much to focus on immediately? Too many backs to back appointments/meetings? Not being able to say No?
BREATHE: Take a big breathe and recognize that everything is fixable and solvable. We just need to figure out our options.
BRAIN DUMP: Write down everything on a list. Just get it all down on paper. Just keep listing things. Whatever is on your mind, just get it out of your head and onto paper. One centralizes list.
NOW: What are the biggest priorities? What are the immediate items that you need to right now? Not just now, but NOW NOW. When I was working in South Africa, they had three (3) definitions for Now. There was just now, which meant within the immediate future. Then, there was Now, which meant within the hour or so. Then, there was NOW NOW, which meant, drop everything and focus on it now. So, what do you need to do NOW NOW.
ACTION: Are there items that you could outsource/automate/not do/eliminate/delegate? I’m a fan of the not-to-do list. My sister is great at this, she looks at her calendar for the week/month and highlights the days that she will need help with the kids. She gets proactive so that she can plan. The other day, I was struggling for time to do the grocery shopping/making a deadline and doing pickups. So, I got food delivered and decided to grocery shop online for delivery. Boom! #NailedIt! Next….
POWER OF NO: There is a way to say no and it really provides you a way to take control. We often feel guilty for saying NO, but we shouldn’t. We are not saying NO forever, but saying NO for the immediate future. I wrote a blog about HOW TO SAY NO ELEGANTLY. It is often hard to say No, but people will thank you for being honest and managing expectations.
We need to recognize that being ‘Superman’ or ‘Superwoman’ is not about taking on so much. It’s about leveraging the people & resources around you to drive towards a goal/a vision.
Thank you again for your time and I really hope these tips help you. It has definitely helped me more times than I can count! Feel free to share with your friends or others that are struggling. We all need help and friendly reminders, that we are not alone in feeling this way.
Best Always, Sapna
Here are some FREE resources thart you might want to check out
Learn management consulting timeless secrets that will always keep you ahead of the curve.
Connect the Dots:
How to turn strangers into meaningful network relationships.
Optimize the networking benefits with less effort? Less effort, More results and so much more.
Everyday is Happy Women’s Day! You know why? because we choose our mindsets each day. Every morning when I’m in the shower, I’m thinking about the day and how to conquer it. Not, thinking about how it’s going to be a struggle. I look at all the opportunities in front of me and decide where I want to spend more time or less time on.
There is a difference between being assertive and aggressive in business. Women always get a bad rap and get called a not so positive name. The difference is how we utilize assertiveness. Being Assertive means speaking on facts, with the desired end goal in mind. Getting everyone aligned to where we want and need to go. Assertive women, know exactly what needs to be done and how to get there. Assertiveness is defined as self-assured confidence. Which is the complete opposite, of the Imposter Syndrome.
Time Management, strong women really know how to manage their time and make the most of every moment. There is that timeless saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
Listen- another key differentiator is that women tend to ask for proactive feedback from those in their inner circle and strangers. They know how valuable it is to get different viewpoints. This helps us mitigate risk (point #4). We listen to understand.
Comparisons – we don’t compare ourselves to others, we LEARN from others that we admire. We look to see what traits/best practices that we can adopt.
Learn- we look at every failure point as learning or an opportunity. We are also always looking for opportunities to build new skills, learn a new viewpoint and educate ourselves. This only adds to our confidence in our vision and plan (point #1). In fact, I have another little freebie gift for you.
In Jan 2019, I announced the Brainfood Virtual Book Club. It was a new experiment that could go horribly wrong, but I thought WHY NOT? It’d be a fun learning experience. And, I’m all about learning and trying new things.
Six Months Later, what have the results been? It’s been AMAZING! We’ve regularly meet the 1st Monday of the month, during lunch hours. Results… we’ve created a really new ecosystem of friends. That’s right. Strangers have become friends. This experiment has become a success and has become one of our new essential tools in our tool kit! 🙂
We have shared so much about our personal lives, that was stimulated by the book topic. It’s remarkable how much we have learned about ourselves through this. In fact, this monthly virtual get together has become our FUEL that gets our engines running for the next few weeks. This virtual business book club has sparked and inspired so much, from asking for help, to brainstorming to just laughter during our lunch hour. We do publish, some of the highlights & ‘AHA’s from our book club, but we edit out all our personal stuff. It’s kinda like Vegas. What happens in BrainFood Book Club, stays there.
Want to join but afraid you won’t have time to read. Guess what! You don’t need to read the book to join the BrainFood Book Club 🙂 We meet once a month, for 45 minutes, virtually, during lunch. It’s a great way to network, get energized and inspired. Feel free to join, it’s free, it’s fun and a great way to learn & get inspired with others. I’ve added the BrainFood Book Club link here. Feel free to share with others that might need a little extra ‘juice’ in their mojo!
We are always looking for new titles to add and we’re open to recommendations.
I got this question a few times, about how to work effectively virtually or as part of a virtual team. It’s like a dream.. We get more flexibility. In the words of Spiderman- “With great power comes great responsibility”. This is a growing trend and the freedom and flexibility, do create a different layer of challenges. I’ve always worked in a virtual capacity in one way or another, with global organizations, with boards, community groups and so on. I tend to work longer hours and really try to provide a lot of value, so that the meetings are very productive and shows that I’m dedicated to moving the needle forward.
Let’s be very clear, it means that your work is outcome based versus time based. This means that you need to produce quality outputs. Our employers are saving us time from commuting to the office, getting dressed up etc… I want to emphasize that it’s very important NOT to bite the hand that feeds us! We need to produce quality deliverables and outputs, because our employers are trusting us and empowering us to be more successful. It’s easy to fall into the trap of watching TV, playing on our phone more and other distractions.
I think one of the most public one.. was when Professor Robert Kelly, was doing a live television broadcast on the BBC and was interrupted by TWO of his kids! It was hilarious and more impressive of how he kept his composure! Here is the YouTube video
Kids will be kids.. Interruptions will be interruptions. Working remotely has its many PROs and CONs, but the intent is to have a mutually beneficial relationship that enables both of us (us and our employers) to be successful! Working remotely has lots of challenges.
I thought I’d put together some tips to make it more feasible to navigate across this noisy and busy world. Here are some of my favorite best practices that I've utilized.
Get a clear picture and understand of your calendar, both personally and professionally. Those that are going to be in your work environment, let them know up front of some key meetings that you cannot be interrupted. You need to have one complete view of what is happening around you, so that you can adequately plan to mitigate disruptions. If you need to travel somewhere, include travel time in your calendar. If you need time to prep for a meeting, include that into your calendar. Have a clear picture of all the moving elements.
Morning routines are so incredibly important. You wake up, work-out, meditate, shower, get dressed (like you’re going to the office), make a smoothie, grab a coffee, read the headlines, check your emails. Whatever it is.. Have a morning routine. Once your morning routine is established, over time it will go on auto-pilot, which means, you won’t use unnecessary brain power to get your day moving. You’ll save your brain, for the harder tasks and accomplishments.
Eat Your Frogs First
One thing that I do, is that I do my key activities in the morning and save the meetings for the afternoon. I pick the hardest thing first, to get it over and done with. That way, I don’t delay or procrastinate from getting it done. I don’t want it to sit on my mind and fester. I find that once I get the hardest thing done or the one that I dread the most, then the rest of the day runs smoothly. Slay the dragon! I often find, that having a couple of hours dedicated to outcome related tasks and activities are key, especially when it needs your brain and concentration. Then, the afternoon calls are less stressful, rushed, more productive as I’m able to focus better.
This one is hard one. We don’t have people to randomly chat with in the kitchen, or by the water cooler or my favorite, the coffee machine. It’s easy to sit and work for hours and hours, without a break. We get on a roll and don’t have anyone to make small talk with. This was one thing that I was really missing. So, I used to schedule breaks. I might make a coffee at 10am or go for a walk and schedule a catch up with a colleague. Or I’d book a lunch with someone, to get out of my house or apartment. Make sure you schedule little breaks. Once a month, I have a BrainFood Virtual Book Club on Monday’s during lunch, so we can eat, connect and chat about our business book. It’s a great way to Network.
**PRO TIP: If you’re working in a coffee shop or taking to someone, make sure that you’re NOT talking about confidential information. There is ALWAYS someone listening. Remember, to respect your employer privacy guidelines.**
Another popular tactic is the TheTechnique, which is that you work 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break. You can check your phone/emails And once you’ve worked 100 minutes, you take 15-20 minute break. It’s popular technique that was created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. You can set a timer beside you. I think it’s important to get up out of your chair and move around…
Face to Face meetings
With all this amazing technology, it’s easier to have more face to face meetings. Skype for business, Zoom and the list goes on. It was one of our favorite things to do.. We get on video and laugh at our hair, or that one person was wearing PJs still and so on… we all know this happens. But, we had fun with that! Face to Face virtual meetings are great because it allows us to connect and really hear and listen to what is going on. We tend to do less multi-tasking and more be more focused and engaged in the meeting.
Ergonomically Friendly Desk Environment
This sounds odd especially since I just said it’s important to get out of your chair, it’s important to have a great chair. It’s easy to get poor posture, being hunched over a laptop. Get your station set up, so that you have what you need in order to be successful. Put a picture or two of your family or a vacation spot. Or get an office playlist ready. Have a plant. Create a work environment that makes it your environment to be relaxed and successful. Your body and mind is important.
Clean up your desk
This one is a hard one for me. Even in this digital world, I have clutter on my desk all the time. I have a lot of books and reference documents that I utilize. It’s been a constant struggle and a discipline that I’ve tried to enforce in myself. I now, ensure I clean my desk at the end of each work day, as I prepare my to-do and priority list for the next day. If you’re already great at decluttering, you may only want to do this once a week. For myself, I have to do it every day and I’ll tell you… It sets me up for success for the next day. By the way, don’t forget to actually log-off your computer. Turn it off! It creates a barrier, to log-on again in the middle of the evening. When I get to my desk and log on the next morning, I know what my desired outcomes are going to be for the next day. Last point.. Always, purge, purge and purge! Marie Kondo, your desk!
These are my favourite tips, that have really enabled me to be more productive and have more control in both my personal and professional life.
Do you have some other best practices? Feel free to share and comment.
I get this question quite a bit… how do you say NO and not burn bridges… simple.. Be honest, scope out clearly and provide options…
IMPORTANCE OF SAYING NO
One of my mentors told me early in my career that “You can either be good at a few things or fail at everything”. Those words have stuck in my head for my entire career, which has really enabled me to truly provide quality and over deliver. I have always championed the idea that all I have is my name & credibility. As I’ve worked across the globe, my reputation for driving ideas into action is known and vouched for by many senior executives.
THE VALUE OF UNDER COMMITTING & OVER DELIVERING
Let’s remember what a small world it is… I’ve had many recruiters, executives and other acquaintances reach out to me and ask me.. “I see that you know Pat, what do you think of their quality of work? Their values?”. It happens all the time.
It’s really important to NEVER OVER COMMIT & UNDER DELIVER! It’s so damaging to your name, your reputation and your credibility. I have worked with management consultants that have failed miserably in this area and it’s hard for me to recommend them to other clients, opportunities because of the broken trust. When I recommend people, I am vouching for their reputation and credibility. They are a reflection of me and my word.
With so many demands on our time, it’s important to have those conversations with the ones that request your time. Having a discussion regarding timelines, expectations really shows experience and professional maturity. The message that it shows is that you care about your reputation, their reputation and providing high quality outcomes.
SOME TACTICAL TIPS
You know I’m all about tactical tips. Never commit to a request before understanding the effort and time commitment required. I never sign a blank cheque for my time.
The key is not to say NO, it’s to provide options and help your client/boss brainstorm or even re-prioritize. If you only have 5 hours of bandwidth left, its okay to say “I have limited cycles this month, but I’ll have more time in two months after this project is completed”. Then, it’s easier to have a dialogue. The biggest compliment, is when someone wants your help in something.
Understand Intent: What is the intent of the request? Really try to understand the overall objective and where they are trying to go to.
Understand Scope: Ask good questions to really understand the scope and the impact. Is it required as an input in other activities? There could be a downstream impact on other strategic initiatives.
Be Honest: DO NOT, I repeat.. DO NOT overcommit to activities and underdeliver. It’s the fastest way to lose a client and respect. Do you have the skills? expertise?
Understand Timelines: Ask the question “When is the latest that I can get this back to you by?”. This is key, they may only need a portion of a deliverable or request by a certain time. Or you may think they need it in the next day or so, when in reality, they just need it in two weeks.
Break it Down: If they want everything and the scope is too big, then break them into smaller activities. If it’s still not feasible, offer a few options. Perhaps, person XYZ could do ABC tasks.
People will respect you more for being honest with them, versus being a YES person! People like options as it provides them with more ideas and allows them to think more broader.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback! Feel free to share with others that are struggling with the art of saying NO elegantly…
What a celebration! International Women's Day is to celebrate the movement in Women's rights. Check out these amazing ladies that we have had on our podcast. These ladies are not just entrepreneurs, but they are innovating, challenging the status quo and making magic happen. They are truly role models…
My name is Sapna Malhotra. Born in Liverpool, the home of the Beatles. I’d like to think that’s where I get my sparkling personality from or maybe not! The first step to changing perception is to create awareness. I wanted to be inspired, challenged and embrace my curiosity. That’s why I started the CanInnovate Podcast.
I truly believe that education and awareness are instrumental in overcoming obstacles and perception challenges, both globally and locally in Canada.
Dr. Ann Cavoukian is recognized as one of the world's leading privacy experts. She is currently the Distinguished Expert-in-Residence, leading the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University. Her Privacy by Design framework is now the International Standard and has been translated into 39 languages. Dr. Ann Cavoukian has won numerous awards such as Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada Top 10 Women in Data Security & Privacy, Power 50 by Canadian Business, Top 100 Leaders in Identity.What is GDPR? How to turn GDPR into our next competitive advantage & avoid the penalties!
Julie is a technology-oriented entrepreneur consulting local small businesses on IT & operations solutions. Founder of online retail business of innovative adventure travel gear products. Experience managing multi-million dollar IT and supply chain projects in high-pressure environments at a large corporation.
Bethany Deshpande is the CEO of Soma Detect. She is a scientist turned entrepreneur who is providing dairy farmers with information that they need in order to produce the best milk.
She is from New Brunswick which have a great startup communities. It is very interesting how she end up becoming the CEO of one of the promising startups in agriculture when she didn’t grew in a farm and knew nothing about agriculture. She also mentioned that her father played an important role in the creation of the company and how her conversations with dairy farmers led her to find ways to improve their industry.
Laila Paszti is an attorney in GTC’s Mergers & Acquisitions, Business & Technology Transactions and Privacy groups. She focuses on mergers and acquisitions, licensing and other technology-related transactions, with an emphasis on software code audits and big data platform diligence. She also advises clients on privacy and security compliance and cross-border transfers of data.
Laura Simpson is one of the Co-founders and CEO of Side Door. She is a living large, DNA music pumping through her veins, music industry professional. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She also founded The Syrup Factory, which began hosting house concerts in 2011, offering strategies and services to artists in 2015. She’s also been an organizer in the art scene since she was 14 years old going to all ages shows and then eventually taking live music photography and freelancing.
Sarah stands at the forefront of international trade with expertise in the global logistics industry, working with the private sector to build, develop and increase efficiencies in their supply chains. She has spent the past 20 years working in logistics and supply chain, most recently as Director of Sales and Marketing for ICECORP Logistics Inc, a privately owned 3PL.
Angela Johnson is the Founder and President of Medical Confidence, a company that help empower individuals to be informed in their health and healthcare decisions. She has over two decades of executive management and business leadership experience focusing on health and healthcare.
Carmelia Ray is an internationally acclaimed matchmaker for high achieving men and the quality women they’re searching for. She’s also a renowned TV personality from Mom Vs. Matchmaker, The Real Housewives Of Toronto, and A User’s Guide to Cheating Death (Fall 2018). She's also won the 2018 Best Dating Coach award!
Melissa Sariffodeen is the CEO and Co-Founder of Canada Learning Code. She is a celebrated digital literacy advocate who is dedicated to ensuring that women and youth have the critical skills, confidence, and opportunities that they need to thrive in our increasingly digital world. She is a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Education Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She taught herself how to build websites from scratch using HTML when she was 11 years old and has been coding ever since.
Karen Greve Young is the Chief Executive Officer of Futurpreneur Canada, Canada’s only national organization dedicated to supporting young entrepreneurs. Futurpreneur’s unique model combines funding, mentorship and start-up programs to fuel the success of thousands of young entrepreneurs in every Canadian province and territory.
Ariel Garten is a neuroscientist, innovator, mother, entrepreneur, and founder of InteraXon. Her company makes Muse: the brain sensing headband that helps you meditate. She speaks about happiness, meditation, understanding the brain, mental health and giving her audiences the tools they need to help them become their better selves.
Nicknamed “the negotiator” as a child, Fotini Iconomopoulos has been honing her skills her entire life. For the last decade, she’s been empowering Fortune 500 executives and their teams to achieve their objectives through her expertise in negotiation, communication and persuasion.
Meredith Messenger is VERY well versed in the demands of running a one-person shop and the struggles that many startups have with developing predictable revenue. She is the founder of Selling With Soul and the host of the Selling With Soul podcast.
She is a Revenue Coach and Sales Consultant offering revenue strategy development, sales consulting and sales team building to start-ups, small and mid-sized companies. The mission of Selling With Soul is to help more small businesses survive, thrive and impact the world.null
Rona Birenbaum, co-founder of Viviplan and the winner for the 2017 DMZ BMO FinTech Accelerator. She is also the founder of Caring for Clients, one of Canada’s first fee for service financial planning firms. She is also recognized as a wealth professional woman of influence in 2017. A financial columnist for the Medico Post.
Viviplan offers technology to help speed up the financial planning for every stage in life, from early career to early mid-life to pre-retirement, retirement and other goals. Can turn those dreams, hopes and visions, into reality. All you need is a little planning to achieve your life goals!
Dr. Chris McKillop really knows her stuff and as a pioneer in her field. She earned her degree in artificial intelligence in the 1990’s. She have an MSc in human centered computer systems, a PhD in educational technology and she, of course, have researched and published tons of articles on emotional dimensions of learning.
She has a long record of pioneering technological innovations to improve learning. Chris is really passionate about artificial intelligence, empathy and how it can help improve people’s lives. She incorporated her first company Turalt when she was 50 and is proud to be an older woman in tech advancing A.I. for the good.
Lauren Waldman truly taps into the science, and fun of learning while maintaining a sharp approach with an intense dedication to the success of others. Her current focus in the studies of neuroscience and how the brain learns, has played an eminent role in helping individuals and corporations navigate through the creation of what she calls “Learning Legacies.” These studies have also given rise to strategies relevant to the confusions and challenges, of the current cross-generational workforce.
Lauren Waldman is a CTDP (Certified Training and Development Professional), has certification in the Fundamentals of Neuroscience (Harvard), is currently working on a certificate in Medical Neuroscience (Duke), is a Designated Communication Coach and Trainer, and is an advisory board member of the NCCA (National Communication Coaching Association of Canada).
in iTunes by Wild A. Bandon from USA on July 31, 2018
Saphna really knows how to keep things moving. Good stuff!
Love Sapna and her podcast
in iTunes by So1222 from Canada on January 10, 2019
Listen, there’s a gap in identifying the innovators in Canada. Love her interviewing style, and how she really gets in-depth with her guests. Keep it up!!
Sapna’s enthusiasm is infectious!!
in iTunes by Nicole Holland @ BBRShow.com from Canada on November 26, 2018
I love how Sapna is so passionate about introducing the world to Canadian innovators, and is one in her own right as well. Her drive to constantly improve this show for her listeners and guests is a level of dedication that few podcast hosts have.