Get sh*t done: paths to finding flow

When I was a kid, my grandparents took me to Casa Loma. It’s an historic stone mega-mansion in the middle of Toronto that’s now a public attraction. I was immediately obsessed.

Obviously I took the visitor pamphlet with the castle’s floor plan back to my grandparents’ apartment. And to my great delight, my grandfather, who was an engineer, showed me how to pull out the drafting table that he and built into his bedroom wall and use his huge sheets of graph paper and a ruler to enlarge the floor plan to scale.

Despite being under ten, for the next few hours I did this work with the intensity of a surgeon. My brain was in heaven – meditative, systematic, switched on, dialed in, with laser clarity of purpose. It’s one of the first times I can consciously remember being in a state of flow.

You may feel like you have difficulty focusing, but know this: your brain is designed to flow and it craves this state of intense focus and clarity. The more you flow, the easier it is, and the more you will experience it. Here are some tips for getting there:

Make it matter  

You probably won’t find flow washing dishes (although I’ve heard it can be pretty zen #notforme). Find a task that really matters, where you’re invested in the outcome. It should challenge you, but not to the point you’ll get frustrated and quit. This is actually a great test for any work you’re doing. If it doesn’t matter enough to inspire you into a state of flow, how much of a priority is it?

Choose work times intentionally

Do your focused, creative work when you are most naturally focused and creative. If you don’t know, you need to experiment and figure that out. For most of us, we do our best work in the early morning or in the evening. Turns out, our brain activity mirrors the activity level of the animals at the High Park zoo (go figure).

Give yourself enough time 

You also want to give yourself a window of time in which to enter the state of flow and actually get somewhere. If there was a city called “let’s honestly think we can do two hours of work in the next forty minutes,” I would be mayor of that city. I’m working on that. What I’ve learned is that it is WAY BETTER to choose just one important thing, and give yourself the forty minutes to go deep with it.

Help your brain avoid distractions

Does your brain love to be in the state of flow? Yes it does. Does it need help to overcome distractions? Absolutely. Do yourself a favour and set yourself up for success.

Clear your desk space (or wherever you’ll be working).

Have everything you might need within reach.

Remove distractions (close the fifteen other tabs, or disconnect altogether, put phone on silent or out of the way (imagine!), let your dog out).

Catch yourself

A final tip: catch yourself just as you are breaking focus and challenge yourself to prolong focus instead. While writing this, I’ve literally reached for my phone, caught myself, and returned to typing at least four times. And look, I finished!

There it is. To recap: make it matter, choose work times intentionally, give yourself enough time, help your brain avoid distractions, and catch yourself. What will you accomplish today? Here’s to you, finding flow.


Want more? Subscribe for a regular roundup of career strategy and inspiration – HERE.  And we 💜 Instagram – say hi and follow us HERE.


 

 

 

Grace through change: returning to work after maternity leave

This post is not about babies or mothering or priorities or meaningful work or difficult decisions or finances or getting a tribe or a therapist or setting expectations or negotiating flexibility or guilt or feminism or all the things I promise I’ll write some day.

This post is about grace through change. Because regardless of who you are, the truth is that returning to work after maternity leave generally feels like a massive and terrifying change (even if you’ve never been more excited to get to work!).

I have this friend who actually claims that she loves change. I’m like, what?

Not that I don’t like change. I mean, of course, I am obsessed with personal development and evolving as a human being and that is all change, all the time.

But what about changes that shake up your world suddenly, like returning to work after maternity leave? Or adapting to any new routine (hello, back to school). Or moving and building up a repertoire of favourite spots in your new neighbourhood. Or moving in with a partner or going through a breakup. These are big changes. But good news: they usually feel bigger than they actually are. Here are some ways to handle them:

Honour that sh*t  

It’s happening. And it’s not easy. And you’re going to make it through. And in the meantime your going to get a little anxious. Just permit yourself to feel all of it. And cry or take a day or whatever you need to do to honour it and honour yourself moving through it. Change is not easy (except for my friend, #yougogirl). For most of us, it’s a challenge.

Lighten up 

I know, annoying. It’s like when you’re freaking out and someone tells you to relax. Not helpful. But try this: nothing is permanent, everything is a lesson, you’re on a journey, this change will come and go and soon it will be the new normal and you’ll be on to the next. The only sure thing in life is change. If you’re starting a new job, you’ll still have good and bad days, take vacation and spend time with your family and all the good stuff. If you’re moving, you’ll still eat breakfast every day (if you do that) and enjoy coffee (me) and find a nice place to go for runs (in my fantasy life). However big this change feels, it will not change everything; nothing is that powerful. So lighten up on the gravity of the situation.

Send that change some love 

Now if you’re like me, you might have some experience with catastrophizing that change to death. Like what is it going to feel like when you have to commute to work at 7am on a Monday in a blizzard in February and your kid is like “no mommy, don’t leave. why don’t you love me?”… Let’s just put that in perspective for a moment: that’s an imaginary thing that may or may not happen. So instead, think of some good things that are going to come out of the change and send it some love that way. Like how much reading you’ll be getting done during that commute. Or the amazing coffee you’ll be picking up every morning on your way into the office.

Change is actually good 

Because you’re going to grow! Baby, you’re going to grow so much from this. It’s going to hurt some days but it is going to take you somewhere you would not have been able to go without it. Even if it’s quickly out of this job and into another, or back home to care for more babies or into your own business or who knows? This change is a step on your path. It is actually good. Courage pants on. Hand on heart. Bring it on!


If you are heading back to work after maternity leave and want to talk it out, get in touch with me here.


Want more? Subscribe for a weekly roundup of career strategy and resources here. And we 💜 Instagram – say hi and follow here.


 

 

 

Supercharge your development according to your MBTI type

Ever heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? You are in for a treat. This is one of my (and the world’s) favourite personality typing tools and learning it has literally transformed how I approach relationships: with my partner, with my parents, with my friends and colleagues. If you don’t know your type, here’s a free test. And here’s what you can do to supercharge your development now, based on your type:

Analysts – the ideas people

INTJ: Focus your energy. You do all the things and you do them well. In order for you to step up your game, you need to stop doing the non-essentials and focus your energy on what really matters.

INTP: Capture your brilliance. Think of topic you know a lot about that could help you in your work and write it down. Then share it – either as an article on LinkedIn or more low-key, like an email to some top clients or trusted colleagues. Your status as an expert in your field will be noted (and you’ll have fun).

ENTJ: Find a mentor. You’re ready to develop into the next iteration of yourself. Look around at the people you know, put on your humility hat, and ask yourself “who has done things that I want to do, and how can I learn from them?”.

ENTP: Nurture your network. Your network is one of your most powerful tools. Think of three people you can connect with and offer to help them with something. They’ll remember the favour and pay it back later.

Diplomats – the values people

INFJ: Look after yourself. Being your awesome self can take a lot out of you so you need to recharge. Look at your schedule and ask yourself: does everything in it align with my values now? How can I adjust to make sure I’m getting what I need?

INFP: Read a book. Think of something that’s been on your mind lately. Maybe your intuition has been nudging you toward a certain topic? (I think so). Grab a book that will take you deeper.

ENFJ: Find a mentee. Oh hi Oprah, you love empowering people. So why don’t we flex that muscle and get you doing what you do best, by hooking up with a mentee and helping them get to the next level? Spoiler alert: you’ll grow too.

ENFP: Do the next right thing. You’re a free spirit and that’s a beautiful thing, so I’m not suggesting a three year plan. But spend a moment thinking about where you’d ultimately like to be and then do the next right thing to get you there. Small steps.

Sentinels – the doers

ISTJ: Take a course. Think about the most exciting projects you’ve worked on in the last year and what would equip you to keep pursuing that type of work.

ISFJ: Step into your power. Take control of a situation that has felt out of control. This could be at work, with a client, or at your kid’s school. Set up the conversation and handle it, because you can.

ESTJ: Prioritize. Your productivity is off the charts, but ask yourself, am I prioritizing the high value-add things on my list, or just getting things done to get things done? Challenge yourself to prioritize your work and watch your results soar.

ESFJ: Give yourself space. You need to breathe. Whether it’s a weekly yoga class, or a walk, or just watching Netflix, establish a routine to unplug a little. It will give you more horsepower to develop in all areas of your life.

Explorers – the adventurers

ISTP: Improve a process. You have a talent for seeing the gaps in a process that others don’t always see. Think of a process you do that could be improved and make it happen. You’ll get a lot of satisfaction and you’ll get noticed.

ISFP: Get inspired. Whatever that means for you, whether it’s go hiking or paint, you do best when you are inspired and so the best way to supercharge your development is to feed your inspiration muscle regularly.

ESTP: Join a group. This could be an industry association, coaching program or a team at work. Get involved with a group of people who are going after the same things you are, and contribute your energy to supporting them and getting support back.

ESFP: Get an outlet. You’re a creative soul with a lot of energy. Whether you rediscover your childhood love of dance or start a wine club, get an outlet and give that creative energy a place to thrive.

That’s it folks. Does this resonate? I’d love to know. Happy development 🙂


Want more? Subscribe for a weekly roundup of career strategy and inspiration – HERE. And we 💜 Instagram – say hi and follow us HERE.


And now for the choice

This is the final post in the Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life series 🙂 If you didn’t catch the other three, here they are: Values, Tools and Purpose.

It’s summer 2001. Cell phones flip open and don’t have cameras. AOL is the most popular website. Social and media are just two words. Britney and JT are an item.

It’s a while ago.

I’m living out of two Rubbermaid bins, moving between tiny plywood structures with no electricity on a weekly basis. I’m showering irregularly but swimming often. I’m singing my heart out every night at campfire.

I’m a camp counselor in a place where I was an overnight camper for a decade prior. Meaning all my dreams have come true. I’m a role model for kids, I’m responsible for their wellbeing (including supervising dangerous activities like water trampolining, ziplining, developing grit and independence from their families). It’s silly, it’s creative, it’s demanding.

I’m trusted. I’m growing into it.

I’m the most alive I’ve ever been.

More than once, on “night out” from my cabin (note to self: immediately implement regular night out policy in parenting life), I experienced a lapse of consciousness. I felt as if I was completely alone at camp. For just a few moments, I would see myself standing there under the huge sky, surrounded by trees and nature and all the camp buildings, but with no other soul for miles.

Like it was all there just for me.

Perhaps it was the silence, the expansiveness of the brightly lit sky. Perhaps it was an invitation to come into oneness with the higher power that brought me there, that united that community. To let all the distractions fall away.

I mean, it was eerie.

But it was thrilling too.

Have you ever felt that?

A while ago I took an inventory of all the jobs I’ve had, and it’s a lot. Retail, food service, garden centre, telemarketing, customer service, tutor, church musician, yoga teacher. And those are BEFORE I started my HR career as a consultant, manager, director of programs, educator and coach.

But that camp job. Until now it was THE ONE that led me closest to a lit-up life. All the cornerstones were there – it aligned with my values, it made use of the tools I had to offer, it gave voice to my purpose and – it had me walking down a path that felt right.

The fourth career cornerstone is the path you choose to walk. Your values are well established, even your tools are largely your natural gifts. Your purpose is your unique contribution to the world.

Your path is different because it’s a choice. It’s the context. It’s the wrapper. It’s the industry and workplace and job that usher your offering into the world. It’s the scenery around you while you’re making your magic.

So what’s been the job that gets you closest to a lit-up life, and how do you know? Was there a sign? Like the vast wilderness holding its breath just for a moment, just for you?

And now for the choice: what path do you belong on now?

Me, I’ll take what I’m doing right this minute.

…with a few more starry nights and campfires thrown in. ♥

 

 

Breaking away from black and white thinking

A lot happened this week.

I was low on sleep (I have two babies with colds). Completely exhausted, I cried and bore witness to my own despair, declaring “you are such a disappointment” to my partner’s face. He hugged me.

It felt really good to say it, even though it’s not the truth. I took two things away from my experience seeing a therapist for my postpartum anxiety over the winter. One was about my tendency to think in black and white and how harmful that can be.

He’s not a disappointment. More like, I’m sometimes disappointed by things he does and doesn’t do. Just like I’m sometimes disappointed by things I do and don’t do.

Because, you know, we’re humans.

Safely externalizing those black and white thoughts can reveal how ludicrous they are…  and take their power away.

Life is better in the grey. It’s more muted, less dramatic. Subtle, some might say boring. But the stuff our subconscious brains perceive and label as horrific suddenly becomes consumable, digestible, manageable, overcome-able.

True to form, my rock bottom was followed by a climb to new heights: it’s like I let go of the negativity, literally released the anvil, and immediately became incredibly positive about LIFE.

I am letting go of the black and white thinking and embracing the beautiful grey BEYOND.

Today, I am making the conscious choice to take up the special space in the world that I am made for. By following my intuition and uncovering more of my authentic self as I go.

What black and white thoughts can you let go of today? What can you do to move you closer to authenticity?