Focus on the right work

Maintaining Focus in the Midst of Chaos


Life is moving at a fast pace for many people and shows no immediate signs of slowing down. If that sounds like what’s happening in your life right now, take a look at the three questions below to help you maintain your focus.

1. Are you focusing on the "right work?"

In the midst of the flurry, are you focusing on where you can have the biggest impact on the business and your career? Are you making the highest and best use of your talent and skills, and leveraging others effectively? If you answered no to these questions, what one step will you take to refocus your efforts?

2. Do you create space to be strategic?

High performers know that they can’t simply react to what’s going on around them and still get the results they want. Being strategic and intentional about what they say and do is key. When things get hectic, do you consistently carve out time on your calendar to reflect, so you can do just that? Even setting aside 15 minutes a week can help you be much more proactive.

3. Are you getting enough rest?

Maintaining your energy during demanding times can be the difference between thriving and surviving. When people work long hours, they may not get the rest they need – and sleep is a foundational source of energy. It can affect your attitude, outlook, perspective, and ability to make good decisions. If you aren’t getting 7-8 hours of sleep or taking short breaks throughout the day, what one step can you take to address this? Again, simply adding 15 minutes of rest can have a big impact.

If you are working in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment, it makes it harder to maintain your focus on what matters most. So, this week I challenge you to identify one small step you will take in one of the three areas above. Remember, small steps can lead to big results.


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Clean Up Your Physical and Mental Clutter

In a recent article, I told you that I'd kicked off the year with a big physical and mental decluttering project. Since we're in spring-cleaning season, I want to share more about the value of freeing up space in your life, especially since research shows that it can affect your happiness.

Clear Your Space

In our busy lives, sometimes we become blind to our physical workspaces and the effect they have on us. Bring a fresh eye to your surroundings. What does your office or workspace look like? How does that affect your mindset? How much do you enjoy versus feel distracted working there? What can you remove from your workspace? For me, it was reams of back issues of magazines that I had to admit I was never going to read. Getting them out of my space was a huge weight off my shoulders. And with them gone, I'm now making much better use of my office bookshelves.

Also think about what else you need in your workspace, from an organization tool to an inspirational or meaningful photo or memento.

Clear Your Mind

Just like my office, my mind felt cluttered. I kept thinking about the same things over and over again, which disrupted my sleep.

One thing that helped me break the pattern was keeping a journal by my bed. I use it to get everything out of my head before bedtime – or when I would toss and turn for too long. I started by writing out the question "What am I worried about?" and then let the words flow unedited. Once I filled up almost two full pages! By dumping it out of my head and seeing it on paper, I noticed some themes and could more easily pick one or two things to start addressing. When I let it keep rolling around in my head, it took so much effort just to keep up with it. If you try this exercise, handwrite everything because doing so engages your brain differently.

If you want to take this practice a step further and get a little adventurous with some fire, you can try a burning bowl ceremony. On a small piece of paper, write down something you want to let go of — perhaps it's something you no longer want to tolerate or something that's holding you back. Light it on fire with a candle and place it in a nonflammable bowl to disappear before your eyes. The symbolic power in this action can really shift your mindset to eliminating this constraint from your life.

If playing with fire and journaling aren’t appealing, meditation can be another powerful tool. I don't practice traditional, sitting meditation, but the rhythmic cadence of running along with being out in nature, really centers me in the present moment. I usually listen to a guided meditation as I run. If running isn’t something you enjoy, simply go for a walk outside and purposefully notice the beautiful things around you can ground you. And, of course, traditional meditation is always an option. The point is to be fully present and deliberately create more mental space.

Where Is Your Clutter?

Now, think about any clutter in your own life. Is physical or mental clutter making you feel irritable and anxious? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Pick one action to take this week it. If decluttering is something you mastered a long time ago, jot down what you do that works and refer to it periodically to make sure you stay on track. Whatever you choose to do, know that you are making space for something better to enter your life.

What’s Next for You this Year?


As the year progresses or comes to a close, take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture. As high performers, we’re always pushing to achieve and tend to leap from one goal to the next without a pause.

Taking some reflection time, though, helps you be more strategic. Here are five questions to consider:

  1. What have you accomplished this year? What has most excited you? What have you been most proud of? Those answers will give you insights on how to put your strengths and passions into play more powerfully.

  2. What has helped or hindered your progress? Revisit any goals you set for the year. Do you need to shift your approach in any way to reach those goals this year?

  3. What have you learned about your leadership? As you consider the answer to this question, identify what you want to take forward into the rest of the year, and what you want to leave behind.

  4. How will you celebrate what you've done so far? However eager you are to keep moving forward, remember to pause to celebrate. You'll give your energy a boost.

  5. What's next? Now that you've taken stock of where you are, be deliberate about how you want to move forward during the rest of the year. Where do you want to focus your energy and effort, given what you have learned so far this year?

This week, set aside some time to reflect on these questions and set your course for the rest of the year. You'll find more ideas on becoming proactive instead of reactive in my video "Making the Most of Your Time." Even pausing for a few minutes can open the door to new insights. Remember that small steps lead to big results.

Get More Out of Your Meetings


This month, we've been talking about how to lift others up. We've already discussed helping them grow professionally and celebrating their successes. Another way you can bolster your team and your colleagues is by helping them work smarter and avoid practices that stand in the way of their best results. I'm willing to bet that most people would cite meetings as one of the things that hamper their productivity — and happiness — at work. But a few surprisingly simple tweaks can shift that.

  • Request at least one expected outcome and objective when people ask to meet with you. Ask for these before you commit the time for the meeting. This will help you and the other person clarify what you want to get out of it and make better use of the time.

  • For meetings that you lead, restructure your agenda so that the purpose of the topic is clear: to provide an update, get input, or make a decision. (See my gift to you below). If the agenda involves mostly updates, challenge the need for the meeting. Look for other more efficient ways to provide them. Reserve meetings for topics that require input and discussion.

  • Set expectations about how far in advance you need meeting materials so that you can prepare and contribute to the meeting.

  • Shorten your meetings. For example, reduce one-hour meetings to 45 minutes. This will give you time to process what happened in the meeting and follow up before your next one.

  • Show up with intention and purpose. What would make this meeting worthwhile, and how can you make sure that occurs? By simply asking yourself this before you walk in, you will be more deliberate about how you use the time.

As our gift to you, we're offering a free, downloadable agenda template to focus your meetings by clarifying the purpose of each topic. It is simple, but effective. Give it a try this week and let me know how it worked for you. Find more tips for working smarter and having more impact in the "Getting the Right Work Done" module of the WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance ProgramSM and in the WOW! Highlight AudioSM.

Give Yourself an Ear Worm!


Have you ever heard a song on the radio in the morning that stuck with you throughout the day? Some call that an ear worm - a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing1. And according to research, 98% of us experience these pesky occurrences every once in a while. But what if your ear worm worked to your advantage?   My WOW! Women on the Way to Peak PerformanceProgramSM can give you just the messages you need to take your performance and career to the next level. If you’re not ready for the full program, the Lite version includes two high impact modules – “Getting the Right Work Done” and “Building a Network of Advocates” – to help you keep some powerful tools front and center.

“Getting the Right Work Done” focuses on:

* Determining the three most critical areas where you can make the biggest business impact

* Understanding where you are getting side-tracked

* Develop strategies to ensure you are getting the right work done

Listening to this audio module periodically during the year can serve as a checkup or help you refocus on the most important areas for success.

“Building a Network of Advocates” helps you assess and strengthen your current network of colleagues and contacts, to help you get results and advance your career with advocates in your corner.

* How do your attitudes and beliefs impact your ability to network?

* Who should you leverage in your network?

* Strategies to strengthen your network in a way that works for you

* Develop action steps to leverage your contacts to achieve your goals

Designed with busy professionals in mind, you can download and listen to these two 30-minute modules from my website here at your convenience. They come with transcripts and exercises to help you get the most out of the content. Whether you need a boost in the morning to make sure you are showing up the right way, or would like to have a coach available at the press of a button when tackling a difficult challenge, these audio programs will give you a positive ear worm!

1 Wikipedia definition – ear worm

Did You Get The Right Work Done This Year?

Wow, this was a busy year full of change, new projects and challenges. In the midst of the flurry, did you get the right work done? We all know that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your effort.  So, how well did you invest your time and energy this year? Find out by answering these three questions: * Did you focus on the top three things that would have the biggest impact on business results?

* Did you make the highest and best use of your talent and skills?

* Are the right people fully aware of your results and impact?

If you answered yes to the first two questions, congratulations! If key stakeholders and influencers also know about the value you bring, you get serious accolades because it means you didn’t just put your head down and work. You took it one step further to help others recognize – and therefore further leverage – your strengths and experience.

As you reflect on your achievements and plan for 2014, what small step will you take to invest in yourself in 2014?

If you’re ready to get results you couldn’t before, consider the WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program. It will help you stay focused on the right work, removing the barriers that get in the way, and tastefully toot your own horn so you get recognized for it. And these are just two of the six impactful leadership topics included in the Program! Check it out to see if it’s that extra boost you need.

Getting the Support You Need


I coach my clients all the time on making the highest and best use of their talent and skills and focusing on the Right Work (the three things that will have the biggest business impact). Two weeks ago, when I was out facilitating a leadership development program for one of the Big 4, I realized that I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. So, of course, this inspired some action on my part to make some big changes and the following questions for you:

1. How much time do you reserve each week to be strategic?

How much do you find yourself reacting to what’s going on around you versus strategically driving things forward? Many of my clients have instituted a practice of setting aside uninterrupted time at least 2-3 times a week. To get started, I have them dedicate 15-20 minutes once per week unless they can do more. Most people can find that small amount of time even if they have a packed schedule. As they realize how much of a difference a small amount of time can make, they inevitably find ways to carve out more time. Once you start implementing this strategy, I would encourage you to specify exactly what you want to accomplish in the time you set aside and communicate to your team that this is sacred time (i.e., please do NOT interrupt me!).

2. What takes up a lot of time but just isn’t the right work for you?

One of my clients recently expressed her frustration that she spends too much time reviewing and editing PowerPoint presentations for meetings. In fact, if she could resolve this issue, she would get back 20 hours per month!!!! Now, that’s a serious incentive to make something happen.

As we delved deeper, we realized that this situation presented an opportunity for her to delegate while developing her team in a meaningful way. We discussed several ideas including arming the team with her three review criteria, instituting a peer review process, and pairing up employees who are less skilled with those who can already do this well to promote teaching.

So, what’s taking up a lot of your time? How can you use it as an opportunity to develop your team, while freeing up more of your time? What other resources should you ask for?

3. Are you taking a long-term perspective?

Sometimes you can get in your own way whether it’s because of perfectionism, just doing what you’ve always done, or simply thinking it’s just easier to do the work yourself than ask for help.

I want to challenge you to take a longer-term view and think about whether it makes sense to invest a small amount of time now to teach someone else how to do a particular task so you can save a LOT of time down the road. Remember that all of those minutes can add up to a lot of hours or days that you could wisely invest elsewhere. With that perspective, what are you going to stop doing?

As you read through the questions above, I hope they stimulated some ideas. Identify one thing that you’d like to change and put into practice for yourself starting next week. Remember, small steps lead to big results and the goal is to just get started.



© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Get the Results You Want

It's that time again when we ask ourselves, "What do I want to accomplish this year?" Some of us write New Year's resolutions, many which never come to fruition. We may start out with a lot of energy and excitement, but don't recognize how we set ourselves up for failure. Read on for tips to help you get better results this year - in how you write goals and your approach to achieving them.

1. Unbundle and be specific

Let me take an example of Judy who sets a goal to get 20 new clients this year. We all know that she won't find all of these clients immediately and it may take a while to meet her goal. So, first she needs to unbundle her large goal into its component parts. For example, revising her goal to get 5 new clients by the end of each quarter will still allow Judy to meet her overall goal but breaks her goal into manageable pieces. She will also know when she's achieved her goal because it is measurable and time-bound with specific interim milestones.

2. Identify what makes it so important

Judy should also think about what makes this goal so important to her. Perhaps, it's about feeling good about herself, making more money, or getting promoted. Whatever it is, reminding herself of the underlying reason will motivate her - especially when she feels stuck. Often, having a visual reminder (e.g., a note in a visible place, a screensaver) or someone who periodically reminds Judy of the importance of her goal can be very powerful.

3. Think about what it will really take

Is Judy's goal realistic and attainable for her? What will it really take to meet her goal and what obstacles might get in her way? For example, does she need support from someone who is more skilled in developing new business? How should Judy prioritize her time and leverage her team so she can focus more on sales? Does she have the budget she needs? Answering these questions as she's formulating her goals and developing supporting strategies will help Judy be more successful.

4. Assess and Adjust

Periodically, Judy should assess what's working and what's not and make adjustments to her approach. For example, if she's not spending enough time on developing new business, what's getting in her way? What does she need to change about her strategy? She should schedule checkpoints often enough that she can make adjustments before it is too late to meet her goal.

So, I challenge you to try these tips in 2010. I have no doubt that you will get better results. Who knows, maybe this will be the first year you follow through on your resolutions!

Are You Doing the Right Work?

Time is a precious resource that we just can't get back, so use it wisely. Time management strategies can help, but yield minimal results if you aren't focusing on the "right work" - areas where you can have the biggest impact on the business.  Here are three simple steps to help you focus your efforts:  

Step 1: Determine your "Big 3" - the three critical areas where you can make the biggest business impact this year

As you define your Big 3, also think about what your boss would say should be your Big 3. If your boss hasn't clearly stated what is most critical, there are usually clues in his/her actions or behavior. If you're unsure, take the mystery out of the equation and get clarity through a conversation. A common definition of the "right work" will ultimately shape how you and your boss define and measure YOUR success.  

Step 2: Understand the gap in how you spend your time

After you've identified your Big 3, draw a pie chart. Determine how many work hours your pie represents over a one-week period (e.g., 40 hours, 50 hours, etc.). Then, carve your pie into slices that represent major areas of your work (e.g., getting new clients, developing your team, etc.), with the size of each slice indicating the percentage of hours you SHOULD spend on that area each week. For example, if you should spend 50% of your time on getting new clients, that slice would be half of the pie. Be sure to include your Big 3 as separate slices in this pie.   Then, compare this pie chart to one that shows how you ACTUALLY spend your time.  You can do this by tracking your time for a week, noting your activities in increments of 30 minutes, and then summarizing how much time you dedicated to the Big 3. If it's easier, review your calendar for a recent week that represents how you typically spend your time.   It's up to you how specific you want to get, but the ultimate goal is to recognize the gap between what you should be doing and what you are doing.  

Step 3: Develop strategies to redirect

If you reach the conclusion that you need to shift your focus, figure out what's getting in the way today. Is it perfectionism, too many distractions, or just that you weren't clear on the Big 3? Whatever it is, determine 1-2 strategies you can start implementing tomorrow to help redirect you. Often starting small with just a couple of strategies can start building the momentum you need to achieve big change.   Just remember that when you say "yes" to too much time on less critical areas, you are saying "no" to the "right work" - and your potential impact on the business!!