Gerrie Hawes: If you’re lucky enough to be a parent, you’ve held that baby in your arms and you look at them going, I don’t care what your life is, so long as you’re happy. If that’s all you wish for somebody that you care intensely about, then maybe you should also wish that for yourself. The interesting thing is, as a leader, you are the one role modelling the behaviour that everybody else should be doing.
So, if you’re turning up overwhelmed, if you’re not taking care of yourself, if you’re not taking ownership in your own contentment, then that says to everybody else that’s how you thrive in this organisation, because you’re the leader, so that’s what I have to do. I have to be like that to succeed, and what will happen is you will either get a load of other people that do those behaviours, or they leave.
Rachel Morris: When was the last time you felt on top of your workload? Do you find yourself answering too busy every time someone asks you how you are? Do you ever wake up on the first day after a holiday with a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, worrying about everything you’ve got to get done in the week ahead? If you’re anything like me, the line between busy and overwhelmed is very thin, and it’s very easy to tip into a rising feeling of panic and anxiety when I think about my to do list.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about busyness and overwhelm, and I’m convinced that a mindset shift is necessary. We’re never going to be able to get everything on our to do list done. But whilst we’re working on that mindset shift somehow we need to be able to deal with the enormous workload we have right now. So, this week on You’re Not a Frog, on our first episode of the new season, Gerrie Hawes, an organisational psychologist, joins me to discuss what to do when you get that familiar feeling of overwhelm.
We talked about the toxic culture of busyness, and Gerrie shares a couple of very simple exercises you can do when you don’t know where to start to deal with this feeling of overwhelm. So, listen to this episode to find out how to tell if you’re overwhelmed, and why acknowledging this is a very powerful first step, how to become optimistic, even if you can’t see how anything will change, and a simple yet practical tool, which will help you halve your to do list.
Welcome to You Are Not a Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP, now working as a coach, trainer and speaker. Like frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late, but you are not a frog. Burning out or getting out are not your only options.
In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier. If like me, you’ve really enjoyed some time off over the summer, but are slightly dreading the onslaught of work and family related tasks that seem to multiply at this time of the year, then help us at hand.
We’ve created a free toolkit to help you take stock of where you’re at, and then plan how you will start to deal with that really important stuff you need to do rather than burying your head in the sand and just firefighting the urgent stuff. So, click on the link in the show notes to sign up for your free overwhelm busting toolkit. Now, here’s this week’s episode. It’s really wonderful to have with me today on the podcast, Gerrie Hawes.
Now, Gerrie is a corporate behavioural psychologist. She works with leaders in big business and she specialises in the future of leadership and really helps people enjoy their work again. Gerrie, we met on a retreat, didn’t we?
Gerrie: We did, we treated ourselves to a retreat.
Rachel: It was interesting on that retreat. I just had a week where I’d had the kids off school, and I was trying to work at the same time. So, I must say when I got on that retreat, I felt really, really quite overwhelmed and really in need of a break, and it would have been nice if it was like two weeks long.
Gerrie: Yeah, it’s interesting how long it takes us to switch off to be ready, to be in that moment, right? It always surprises me with whatever you’re doing, you have to decompress before you can really step into it.
Rachel: I guess one thing I noticed on that retreat was the level of overwhelm I was feeling at the time, and a lot of us there were talking about overwhelm. Overwhelm was what we want to talk about today, because I work obviously in healthcare, you work in big business and the things that you’ve been saying to me about people that you work with sound very, very familiar, to be honest. Is it the case that people are overwhelmed at the moment, even outside of healthcare?
Gerrie: Overwhelm, leading to burnout, whether they are on those two is very much happening at the moment, and I think it’s partly because we’re still learning about how to get the balance of this mix of working from home. I also don’t think it’s just a COVID thing. There was a large amount of overwhelm beforehand, but perhaps it’s more obvious now. People are hopefully more talking about a bit more.
I’m driven by a real passion to help people enjoy work. Can you imagine actually enjoying work? Imagine your work was fun. How do we access that?
Rachel: It’s interesting, because I think at the moment, most of us have got a very low bar for work. It’s like, well, if I can just survive work, that’ll be fine. But, I don’t think that’s fine, not when we spend so much of our time at work. If it is just surviving, then what on earth are we doing with our lives? But we really are in that mindset at the moment, aren’t we?
Gerrie: The ironic thing is that there’s a lot of evidence coming out mainly from Harvard University, actually, in behavioural psychology, that if you’re in an enjoyment state, if you’re actually enjoying your work, if you’re more in the flow, you make decisions quicker. Doctors diagnose better when you’re in that state. So, it’s kind of counterproductive to just be in that miserable state. It’s deep rooted. I think we sort of expect work to be miserable, and it doesn’t have to be.
Rachel: Now, let’s just get the elephant in the room out to start off with. Well, it’s an elephant in my room, because I always have this nagging voice in the back of my head, saying it’s self indulgent. It’s self indulgent to want to enjoy your job, and it has actually been said to me by a member of my family, whenever I bring this up. Oh, this is so self indulgent. Why should you think that you should really enjoy your work when there’s millions of people around the globe that are forced to work with very low pay in dreadful conditions who don’t have a choice?
What about 30, 40 years ago, no one expected to enjoy their job, it was just a daily grind, blah, blah, blah. This sort of very woke, I’ve got to enjoy my job, type thing. It’s completely self indulgent and selfish. What are you talking about? What would you say to that little voice in my head?
Gerrie: It’s not a little voice, is it? That’s quite a big one. So, a couple of things come to mind. One is, if you’re lucky enough to be a parent, you’ve held that baby in your arms, and you look at them going, I don’t care what your life is, so long as you’re happy. And then, you decide to put them onto the treadmill of GCSEs, A levels university and career expectations. All you’ve wanted them to do when they were this beautiful, fragile thing, looking at those deep eyes at you, is just to be happy.
I think we have to remember that. If that’s all you wish for somebody that you care intensely about, then maybe you should also wish that for yourself. That’s one side of it. The other thing is that the assumption that if you’re in a low skilled job and low paid job, you must be unhappy is not my experience, and I’ve had the privilege of working in all kinds of things, including I think we talked about it the retreat. I worked at sewage works for quite a while after I was getting some money together to go travelling off to university.
The experience I had there was that there was a huge camaraderie there. It’s a tough job. There’s not a lot of pride in the work for a lot of people doing it, but they found enjoyment in it. I think the assumption is that poor them, and I think there’s an indulgence in that as well. I’m not pretending that work should all be fun and haha. By fun, I mean satisfaction and contentment, rather than it’s all a big laugh and it’s full of banter.
Sometimes, I get people go, Oh, you can’t be laughing all the time at work. The Victorians have a lot to answer on this one. So, the Victorians taught us that we should be like the machines. We shouldn’t be having fun. The word silliness became a dirty word pretty much and actually, in playful ideas. That’s when we go actually, there must be a bit away from to do this.
Once you get into playful language you go, wouldn’t be crazy if we did this rather than the way we just keep doing it, wouldn’t be crazy if we stop banging ourselves over a head with a mallet, and we actually stopped and look at a different way of doing things. That for me is part of that. It’s an indulgence. I think it’s an indulgence not to enjoy work. Does that sound crazy? So if you’re miserable and not enjoying it, you’re not making decisions as well as you could be.
You’re being a martyr, and you’re not necessarily doing your job to the best of your ability. To me, that’s one of things I said, let’s do this podcast but not focused on the big high convoluted ideas. Let’s take a step back and go, yeah, yeah, that’s all very well and good to go. Yeah, I’ve got enjoy my work, but if you’re feeling a bit shit, it’s just like, I’m so far away from that. What I’d like to talk about is how do you even start?
Rachel: Let’s talk about that. So, I think we just need to accept, as a given, that you are not a frog. I think it’s really important to enjoy your work and to thrive, not just survive. Now, if anyone completely disagrees with that, then there’s lots of high powered productivity podcasts. But actually, if you do look at the evidence, you’re absolutely right. It is about happiness and meaning, which makes us actually productive and successful, not about noses to the grindstone.
So, let’s talk about how you even start when you’re overwhelmed. Now, when I’ve been talking to people in health care, people working on the frontline, one of the main things they will say is workload for them. It seems to be workload. I think there’s a lot of stuff underlying that as well. I think there’s an inability to set boundaries and say no, and we’ve done other podcasts about that.
What about in the businesses you work with? Is it mainly workload and demands that are causing the overwhelm? Or do you think there’s other stuff as well?
Gerrie: I’ve got a bit of a bugbear about work life balance, actually, as well, because I think the assumption is that there’s work and there’s life, and that you can compartmentalise the two. Overwhelm comes from all of that. You have to look at a holistic view of, well, what am I overwhelmed with, and workload is absolutely part of that in the corporate world. There’s a never ending demand for more meetings.
I think they should be called different things like meetings, doings, thinkings, creatings, because meetings are generally really badly organised. Nobody really knows what they’re there for. So, they invite everybody because they don’t really know what they’re trying to achieve. Everybody goes, well, I don’t really know why I was there in the first place, because somebody else can make the decision, and they’re not even here.
So, that’s part of what happens in the corporate world. The thing that I asked people to do is, first of all, acknowledge, ‘I think I might be feeling a bit overwhelmed.’ So when I start talking to people, if I’m doing one to ones or if I’m working with leadership groups, I ask what’s going on. Well, we aren’t making big decisions. We’re not as productive as we’d like to be, though, to me, their symptoms, lack of productivity, not making the right decisions, things take too long.
We’re not very good at being innovative. We’re not very good at coming up with ideas. To me, they’re symptoms of, we’re not really getting into the right zone here. We’re not really enjoying what we’re doing. It’s what feels like hard work. So, the first thing is what’s on your plate, have a dump of everything that you’re doing. Now, again, I want to take a step back from it, that sounds easy, but it’s really not.
So, the step before that is to have that phrase of ‘I think I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I think I might be a bit overwhelmed.’ It’s enough, and that’s an acknowledgement to yourself. I think I’ve got a bit too much on. I’m not quite sure where to start. Sometimes, you might find yourself doing something completely unrelated to work. That’s sorting out a cupboard that you know doesn’t help anything apart from that cupboard sorted because it’s controllable.
Actually, there are times and that’s a good thing to do, because it takes you away from it. But if that list of things that sort of sloshing around your head is ever growing, then the cupboard doesn’t make that go away. Part of the next thing to do is make it go away.
Rachel: So if you notice yourself procrastinating and just doing stuff that actually doesn’t matter, it may be sort of a diversion tactic. I’m interested Gerrie in what you said, I think we were talking earlier, it’s a little bit about like addictions. The first hurdle is actually admitting it because I have lost count of the people who, when you say, how are you doing? Busy, busy. The word is busy that everybody uses. I hate the word busy.
I’m trying not to use it. I never use it anymore, because I think if you’re feeling too busy, then basically you’re not managing things well enough, or there is a problem. I think if we start to use the word overwhelmed and just admit it to yourself. The word overwhelmed, yeah, I think people worry about using that. They think that might be a value judgement on them, make them look bad. You’re admitting something in the first place.
So, do you think there’s quite a bit of power just in that, okay, I’m feeling that busyness which is just tipped into the overwhelm. That means that there is something that is not right, but once you admit that there’s something that’s not right, then that means that you then have a choice about whether to deal with it or not, and that’s where it starts to get a bit scary.
Gerrie: Let’s put overwhelmed to one side, and let’s talk about busy. So, it’s used as a greeting quite often. How you doing? Are you busy? Is there room to have a chat or are you busy? Interestingly, in different cultures, I think the Chinese greeting is have you eaten. I know the Mexican shaman will say how well are you sleeping. So, it’s quite interesting. There’s different sort of ways and are we busy, is very much part of it. Are you busy? Oh, yeah, really busy. Oh, how you doing? I’m busy, busy.
Rachel: Are you productive? Are you a worthwhile human being?
Gerrie: Yes. So, let’s unpack busy a bit. I’m independent. I’m freelance. Because of that, there’s the opposite of that if you’re not busy enough, it’s also very stressful if you haven’t got enough work. I will quite often in an email saying, I hope you’re busy enough. If overwhelm is too far from you, if you’re saying I’m really a bit too busy, I’m busy, busy, busy. If you start using those phrases, and saying too busy, well, a bit busy. Do this now, if you grab a pencil, unless you’re out and about, you have to imagine it.
Do two circles, put a dot in the middle and do a little pie chart of each of them. On one of them, do how you would like your day to be and include nighttime as well. So imagine it’s a 24 hour clock, rather than a 12 hour o’clock, chop up where would you like to be going to bed, when would you like to wake up, when would you like that to be a solid chunk of sleep. What would you like to be doing before work?
How many hours would you like to be working? What would you like to be doing in between? Would you like to have a lunch break? Imagine. Do the other one with what’s your reality. By what your reality, I mean, open up your calendar on your phone or on your computer, and what does it really look like, and be honest about your sleep as well. If you start to go, well, that’s the only way I can survive, really. I’m actually working 26 hours a day.
They’re not really sleeping, then that’s also a moment to go, okay? So acknowledging in recovery from addictions, there is a moment you have to say, I need to do something about this. The next step of that is acknowledging you can’t do this on your own. You can’t resolve it on your own.
Rachel: Can I just go back to this pie chart things? I’ve literally just done that as you speaking, and I think this is a really interesting mind shift. Because I know that doctors don’t like saying overwhelmed, because they think it might imply that they’re weak, or that there might be something wrong with them that they’re overwhelmed, because they’ve got so much on. But actually, when you do that pie chart thing, you just look at it.
It’s not a value judgement on you on whether you can’t cope or whether you’re stressed or anything like that, and I hate the word can’t cope, by the way, because I think our physiological stress result responses are normal responses. Your body’s early warning signs or warning signs, not early warning, is just the warning sign. But when you look at that pie chart thing, yeah, you’re going okay, right, well, there I am spending far too much of my day at work.
I’m not sleeping enough. So, that is a definition of probably overwhelmed with too much stuff to do, and it’s not at all a value judgement on me, my ability to cope, my mental toughness, my resilience. It’s just a statement of the facts of the stuff that’s fitting my day. So, I think that is just a really, really helpful thing to do, but depersonalise it, take it away from any sort of value judgement on yourself. So, thank you,
Gerrie: I quite often find leaders will say, ‘Yeah, I’m awake between two and four in the morning, because that’s when I’ll get up and do some work, right?’ So, that’s an acknowledgement. Okay, how do you feel about that? It’s a well, it’s how I get stuff. It’s how I get stuff done, because it’s the only time when there aren’t meetings in my diary. We talk about a bit further and is that sustainable? Is that okay? For some people, it might be, right?
So, don’t make a judgement on that to a point. But, you have to start to be honest with yourself, and that’s when working with somebody else is quite important. I’m not suggesting that necessarily has to be a well being professional, it could be a colleague, a friend. Even before that, I’m going to suggest you do something else. So if you have done the pie chart, or even if you imagine your day, or even if you’re happy to say, ‘You know what? I’m too busy.’
If you like, ‘You know what I think I’m getting close to overwhelm or feeling a bit overwhelmed really.’ If you need to tell somebody and you don’t know who to tell, I think they should email you, Rachel.
Rachel: Do email us. Email me at hello@youarenotafrog. Obviously, we do have so much to help with your overwhelm, but just acknowledging it and saying it and documenting. That’s quite powerful, isn’t it, writing stuff down?
Gerrie: You said you can’t help but actually your assumption is that you’re asking to help what? This is the first step of you helping yourself. If it’s just a line, or if it’s three pages, all of that is absolutely fine because it’s about acknowledging it. It’s what you need to do. You need to get it out. I think I’m drinking too much if it was an alcohol addiction, and sort of saying well what am I consuming is a part of it. If you don’t feel you can reach out, then reaching out to-
Rachel: email@example.com, reach out, just say I am feeling overwhelmed. We will send you a Thrive week planner to help you do almost exactly that, that that you just said. Then, do it, do it and do it. Do it straightaway, because, yeah, there’s power then, and then you’ve gone from your pre-contemplation. But in the change cycle actually thinking actually, there is an issue, and I do need to do something about it. So, thank you.
Gerrie: So, the thing that we were talking about the retreat was, actually, as much about meeting lots of wonderful people, but it was also about how do we talk about what we do. One of the things that I’m really interested in is number of people that believe their work, because the bosses are useless. They’ll say, ‘Oh, my boss is hopeless.’ In fact, it’s one of the number one reasons that people leave their job in the corporate world is because the leadership, there was no progression planning, there was no structure. In other words, my boss was hopeless.
I talk about that say, well, judge, your boss, judge your leaders if you have one. If you lead your practice, then you, that’s the first part but judge the people that you perceive to be the cause of your real problems. Then, I do turn it on people, and I say, okay, so judge yourself. If you did a thumbs up or thumbs down, like the Romans did, where would you position yourself?
Are you hopeless as a leader? I invite people to consider what does that mean, and I broken it down into four big things that are happening in behavioural psychology at the moment. So. I play with the word hopeless and talk about hope, and the first thing you have to do is take responsibility for your own happiness, H for happiness of hope. So happiness, some people, oh, you should have contentment. I like to stretch it.
In fact, I would really love it people find joy, right? That’s not imaginable for many people that are first acknowledging, I’m really struggling right now. Taking responsible of your own happiness, and you know all the things that you should be doing. The things that look after your own happiness are often the things that go straight out the window when you start to get to that too busy place, the exercise, the eating well, the meeting up with friends, the downtime, the mind for reflection, the spending time outdoors, all of those things.
I’m guilty of it, too. They’re so easy to stop doing when just another meeting, just got to sort this, this happened, need to do the car insurance, whatever, that I’m probably triggering loads of people going, Oh, God, I’ve got all of that stuff, right? But, that’s the first part of being better, a better leader. When I’m talking about better leader, I’m not just talking about the people that report to you, but being a better leader for yourself.
Rachel: That is so important, because particularly in healthcare, the people who I think at the moment are most overwhelmed are the leaders. So, you’ve got incredibly overwhelmed leaders leading quite overwhelmed teams. The problem is you then get that role modelling of this is how it should be. I’m so busy that if you aren’t as busy as me, what are you doing, and then the leader has no empathy, because when you are overwhelmed yourself, someone coming to you telling you that they’re overwhelmed.
Your immediate knee jerk reaction is, well, look at what I’m doing. Why can’t you do that? So, it’s incredibly difficult to be compassionate to your teams if you’re feeling that like that yourself, right?
Gerrie: The interesting thing is, as a leader, you are the one role modelling the behaviour that everybody else should be doing. So if you’re turning up dishevelled, not sleeping, not coping with all the stuff that’s going on, if you’re not taking care of yourself, if you’re not taking ownership of your own happiness and your own contentment, then that says to everybody else, that’s how you thrive in this organisation, because you’re the you’re the leader.
So, that’s what I have to do. I have to be like that to succeed, and what will happen is you will either get a load of other people that do those behaviours, or they leave. So, the next part of hope is optimism, which again, is incredibly hard to do. So, you have to, first of all, start taking responsibility for your happiness. Optimism is not blind optimism. I’m talking about having a vision of how you want it to be, and so that’s for yourself.
That pie chart thing we just did is part of that, right? So, let’s acknowledge how you’d like your day to be on average, and then, let’s acknowledge the difference on that. So, a vision of, actually, I would like to be able to have some downtime or catch up with friendsas well as have a seven, eight hours solid sleep. How amazing would that be, all of those things, acknowledging those differences and sharing that with the team?
Let’s talk about how, as an optimistic purview, how would we like to be working together? What would we like our work experience to be? What I get people to do is think about what you would like to be feeling, what would you like to be saying, what would you like to overhear other people saying, and also what would other people notice.
So if people coming across your team, or coming into your practice, or wherever you’re working, and say, I love going there, or what little thought bubbles, drum posts, little thought bubbles, this is what they’re thinking or what they saying when they’re arriving or leaving. This must be a great place to work, again, might be hard to imagine if you’re feeling that, Oh, my God, so much to do.
A vision of what you want to do in an optimistic note, don’t go wild, like this is impossible. Make it achievably optimistic, and you can do that yourself, but also start to do it with the team.
Rachel: I love that optimism because the minute you start saying optimism, my brain automatically goes to well, there’s not a lot to look forward to, particularly in healthcare at the moment. We’re in this vicious cycle where people are leaving, leaving more work for everyone else, so it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. But actually, that’s not what you’re saying.
You’re talking about personal optimism, and you can do that, because even if you look at a system that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere good. I mean, I am hopeful that it will change. There are people working very hard on change as we speak. But actually, if it’s personal optimism, right at the level, I’m optimistic that I can get my day looking more like my ideal day. You can do that because you can control yourself, right?
I love that idea of, actually, let’s bring it down to what you want people to be thinking when they come to visit you at work. I was thinking, ‘Oh, well, oh, it’s good fun here. The team get on really well. They’re really supportive of each other.’ Well, if that’s what you want me to be thinking, a small change you can make is literally go and have a coffee break together five minutes in a day. That is achievable.
No matter how busy you think you are. Sort of side note, I used to do a lot of leadership teaching. I remember being on a course once and teaching about the importance of connection and a team and building trust and everything and just saying that, I think the one thing, that one criteria I used to choose my surgery where I worked. Do they have a lunch break? Or do they have a coffee break together once a day to the team meet?
There was a table of practice managers who got incredibly upset and really angry about this. The thought that we would suggest a 10 minute coffee break in a day where people could talk to each other, and they were able obviously overwhelmed. They couldn’t get enough appointments. I could completely see where they’re coming from. But to me, that is such a quick win that you can have yourself, but you’ve got to go to the loo.
You’ve got to have a drink. You’ve got to take a break, because we know you’ll be more productive. Why not do it together where you can connect and the problem in today’s sort of virtual hybrid world where even people on the front line are in front of screens much, much more because they’re doing telephone consultations, et cetera, et cetera. That hasn’t been built into the day.
So, I think that is one really quick win that actually you are in charge of, and it could actually just change things a huge amounts, just in that very small space of time. So sorry, I’ve gone on a bit of a rant there, but I think it’s so important, and it’s such a little thing that you could do.
Gerrie: If you start to do the optimistic how would we like it to be, and then, score it out of 10. Coaching people do this quite a lot that score out of 10 of how are we doing now compared to what we would like. So, I’ll give it a 3 if we’re lucky. The next question is, because so many people in healthcare are high achievers, you want to go from three to 10, probably 3 to 12, you possibly could even though it’s out of 10.
The next question is how do you get a 4 and 4 might be, let’s have a coffee break once a week, right, together. Let’s not try and overdo it, over promise it. Let’s have a coffee break for, again, try not to over promise, 10 minutes together. We down tools. We have a coffee break or we have a something beginning of the day or end of day. Just a small thing once a week. Then, you review them do that for a couple of weeks.
Are we getting closer to three and a half? If you can get to three and a half, you might be able to get to four and so you check in and that coffee break conversation could be about how are we doing and what we hoped we’re trying to cheat achieve and any other, has anybody got any other ideas that might give us another half increment towards it. Which leads me to the next part, once you’ve got an idea of you’re looking after yourself and your role modelling, that you are taking some self care, you’re more than self care.
You’re maybe even starting to find some contentment. If maybe beyond that trying to find some happiness in your day, and your week, is to use that optimistic vision and let’s get a bit playful. So, what would be a silly way; by being playful, you move from let’s breed better horses and design better carts to wouldn’t it be hilarious if you put an engine in a box, and even imagine that there weren’t any drivers. That’s where playfulness comes in.
It will feel a stretch if- you can’t just lead to playful, right? So, it’s a stretch if you’re not looking after yourself, if you haven’t got an idea of what we’re trying to aim towards. That’s when it becomes unnecessary silliness. Oh, let’s have an innovation brainstorming thing. You’ll discover loads of ideas with no direction. Then, the other you already touched on the last bit of when I talk about what is a hope leader, is empathy and connection.
So, all of those things have been moving from self to talking about how you’d like it to be, maybe as a team, how we’d like it to be, and then also into how do we create together and be playful with what’s possible. How can we do this so differently that we revolutionise how we work together? That’s part of it. That’s maybe, again, too much of a stretch. How do we just increase those increments a little bit in a playful way?
The final bit is empathy, and really seeing what’s going on with the people and knowing that some people are just working for money, and that’s fine. They don’t want to get involved in the process and the structure and the thinking, and other people. This is what they love. Do they love getting into the detail? Do they love thinking about picture ideas? What else is going on in their lives? It’s very hard to connect with empathy.
I know it’s a big part of healthcare professionals’ lives to understand what’s going on people’s lives, but really to understand it’s going with your colleagues and your team, until you’ve started to acknowledge what’s going on with yourself. Now, these are all big picture things I would love if we could to spend a little bit of time just to go, that’s all very well and good, but how do I start. So, the first thing we talked about was acknowledge.
‘I’m more than busy enough. This is not just a one off, this is a trend. If I drew the circles of what I want and where I want to be, there’s a big difference.’ That’s your first thing and onto yourself. The second is acknowledge it with somebody else that might be with you, Rachel, or it might be with somebody that’s a trusted other. So, a partner or a friend. Acknowledge, ‘you know what, I think I’ve got too busy.’
Then, the next thing I do with people is to get them to write down everything that they know that they’re supposed to be doing, and suppose to be as broadly as that. So, that might be all of the work stuff. It might be all of the admin, but also throw in, I need to think about a child, my daughter’s birthday. I need to think about the car insurance. I need to acknowledge that the kitchen needs redecorating.
Put them all on either a piece of paper even better if you put it into a spreadsheet, so Excel or Google Sheets, and write the list. When you think you’ve done enough, you’ve got everything. Open up your calendar, think harder, sit with it more and keep piling it in, because oh yeah, I guess you have forgotten that. I’ve also got to do that, and I’ve also got to do this as well, and make that list as honest as you can.
Doing that on your own is really difficult. Doing it with your trusted other, somebody else or some colleague that will also go. I want to do this thing on this blog. I’ve listened to this podcast. If that if that floats your boat, let’s do this together, so you hold each other to account. What about this? What about that study that you need to walk, that paper you need to read?
What about that report or presentation you’ve got to throw all that you help each other to make that list? As hellish as you can, be as honest as you can. Then, the next part of that is to score out of 20 everything on that list. So, that’s why I suggest we do it in an Excel sheet because it’s easier to do. Add to 20 how would you prioritise this, how important is it, how would you prioritise it.
Just give it a score out of 20, and the reason it’s not out of 10 is because everything’s at 10 out of 10 when you’re in busy overwhelmed mode. So, I’m calling it 20, because you might go that’s 19, 14. Then, with the other person you’re getting, you might sort it if the other person doesn’t add to do sorting Excel or sheets, then the other person will hopefully. So, you get a list in the order of your scores, and then, I invite you to find a line to half that list.
So, use Excel to draw a line or sheets to draw a line across there the half point, halfway point. Everything beneath that line, you’ll work together with somebody else to work out: What can you stop doing? What can you delay doing? Or what do you need to do to be able to let somebody know that I’m not going to do this? I’m going to say no. Although, they’re annoying me, it’s not that important, delay it.
So yes, the kitchen does need decorating, but I’m going to plan to do that in three months’ time, rather than try and feel it’s got to be done now. Then, the third thing is delegate, who could you delegate it to. It does surprise me, a friend of mine who works in creativity and productivity for artists, said that a lot of people don’t realise that delegation is an opportunity for other people.
So, you feel when something you’ve got to do, well, actually, if you said, ‘Look, I’d like to hand this over to you. I’ll support you. So, that is a little bit of extra work in the meantime. I acknowledge that, but I would like to delegate it to you and give you an opportunity to stretch. We can have some supervision on it just to know you can do it.’ But, you can start moving those things away, and then you’ve got a list above a line.
Now if that list is manageable, then use your calendar to start planning. Be honest about how long it will take you to do each thing. That’ll take you two hours. That might take me three days, so maybe 18 hours or whatever. So be honest, and then start planning in your calendar where that goes. So, that means everything below the line you need to start getting rid of, because you won’t have space in your diary to do it.
So, you need to start getting rid of stuff. So, there is often a little bit first of all that, okay, I’ve got more meetings to get rid of stuff. I need a two hour meeting or a 15 minute catch up with somebody to say, I’m going to do it. This is when I’m planning to do it, any other thoughts, so you can manage it that way. The other thing that I want you to look at is if that list above that line is still enormous, having already done the delay, stop, delay, delegate.
If that list is still enormous, then cut it in half again, and that is brutal. So then, beneath that line, again, you’re looking at what can you actually honestly stop doing because there’s some stuff above that line that you’ve already recognised as much higher priority. What can you delay doing and who can you delegate it to?
Rachel: I love that, Gerrie. Yeah, that’s quite a simple technique, really. I mean, it’s simple, but it’s really difficult, I can imagine to actually draw that line. But, we have to face reality, that we can’t do everything on that list, and that scoring out of 20. Yeah, that really helps you say what’s the really, really important stuff here. I guess in healthcare, we all do struggle to delegate. I think people feel there isn’t anybody to delegate to.
I think that’s sometimes the case, more often than not, it’s because just the thought of delegating it and doing the process is just too much effort. It’s going to take too much time to think about the source, and then, you’ve got the loss of control and everything like that, but I think learning to delegate is such an important skill. You also touched on the fact people think, oh, it’s selfish. It’s dumping work on other people.
Actually, no, it’s not. It’s actually helping that person develop their own skills, so really important. I think I love the stop delay delegate. There’s a free to focus sort of productivity thing, which is: eliminate, automate and delegate. I think automating a lot of the time, delegating can be automating. There’s so many things and systems, but I like the delay as well. I think sometimes it’s just easier to think, well, I’ll delay that then it is to eliminate.
It’s less psychologically tricky. So, I’ve got this list of things I might just delay then often you never get around to it anyway, but it’s, I think, easier to delay.
Gerrie: It’s a conscious delay. It’s a conscious delay. So when we’ve got so much to do on our to do list, those things are being neglected, but not necessarily consciously. What they’re doing is continually tapping you on the shoulder saying, You know what this is supposed to be done. This is supposed to be done. This is supposed to be done, really difficult to concentrate and enjoy doing anything else. If you’ve got all of these things in your backpack of stuff that I know, I’ll never get around to, but it’s got to be done.
Then if you consciously stopping, delegating or delaying, so your delay might be, I know I need to do this, but in reality, I need to do it. It’s not urgent. So, I’m going to do it and you put it in your calendar. You plot it in your calendar for three months time, I mean, a year’s time if you need to. This is when I’m going to do that. It just means that you’re consciously taking control rather than all this stuff feeling like it’s controlling you.
Rachel: I think this is where your playful stuff comes in as well because our natural left brain thinking, particularly, here is professionals may work in healthcare or law, accountancy or teaching. A lot of left brain thinking we’ve got to think our way out of this but if you can access that playful creativity but if your brain, you’re automatically going over to the right hand side of your brain and thinking how can this get done in another way?
One of the coaching questions I like to use, which can sometimes unlock this for people is, you know, if you had a magic wand, if you could wave a magic wand and anything could happen, what would you do? Oh, yeah, okay, I would, I would get three more wives and have them at home, or I would employ a unicorn to take me there so I wouldn’t have to take my car, blah, blah, blah.
Okay, is there another way to do that? Oh, well, I could just get an Uber. Or I could just one of my things is, I would love someone else to plan and cook all my meals for me, because I would like to be healthy, but I never seem to have time to plan it or cook it. If I had all the money in the world, what would I do? I would employ that amazing vegan chef that we have in our retreat. Oh, my goodness, imagine someone living in your house and just cooking that food. Okay, I can’t see that.
But you know what, there are some really good meal box subscriptions. I could just do. And yeah, but quite pricey. But actually, most of us and I think a lot of people listening to this podcast are probably time poor and more cash rich, I guess. Although, in today’s you know, difficult times, that’s getting less, but most of us can probably afford the mailbox subscription even a couple of times a week.
So I’ve just, I’ve just done that, again, I’m thinking if I want to eat nicely, I actually quite enjoy cooking to switch my brain off. But it’s the planning and getting the gradients and all that sort of stuff. So actually, I’ve used that magic, one thing, you know, I would, I would hire my own chef, to actually know there is something I could do this, that’s almost as good that actually could help the kids to cook as well.
And then it actually brings you back to some reality and some stuff that you actually could do. That doesn’t cost a lot of time, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, but you hadn’t really thought of it before
Gerrie: We’re educated to supposedly be good at everything, we have to be good at all things. And one of the things that I do when I’m working with teams is acknowledging that some people are really good at seeing the wood for the trees, they can see the objectives, they can see what’s going to be done, they can cut through the, crop through all the details and go right, this is gonna be done. Other people are really good at looking at the detail and going have we considered and have we thought about and give them give them a detail a detailed task and they’re happy.
Other people are really good, okay, we need to think about where we’re going. And we need to think about how we’re going to celebrate the successes and other people like we need to listen to people, we need to bring people along with us. Now we’re all a bit of a mix of those. But what is really useful for all of us to recognise, if I really hate doing something like a detailed task, there is probably somebody else in your team, who, that’s their happy place.
That gives me the opportunity to go through all of your procurement and work out where the best options are, and what we’re gonna drill down on the detail. If that’s not your happy place, that either will be somebody in your team that goes, ‘Oh my god, that that’d be great. I’d love to do that.’
And if there isn’t, that’s probably one of the reasons that your team is struggling because there’s nobody taking that as a nap, then what are their natural strengths, somebody’s having to play out of one of their natural strengths and do all the detail and they feel overwhelmed by it. Because it’s not a natural, happy place for them.
Rachel: I totally agree. And I think the trap we fall into is just because we don’t like doing it, we think someone else won’t like it. And we feel that we’re dumping the work on them. So I’ve got this wonderful team now and we’re like, ‘Okay, we really need to document all our workflows and processes.’ And for me, I’m like, ‘Oh, do you mind doing that? And my team, like, ‘I love it. This is what I absolutely love, I’m gonna do it!’ And they’ve done it absolutely brilliantly.
For me, that felt like I was dumping my responsibility. But for them, it’s like, that’s what they, they, they really love. And I guess it’s like that for audit projects. So, quality assurance, or even governance or describe you know, there’s always somebody that actually really loves getting into that you feel you’re dumping, but you’re not recently I was listening to another podcast, and it was two very successful entrepreneurs. They were both men with wives at home doing everything for them in the background. So thinking, hmm.
But one of the things they were saying is one of their mantras is ‘It’s not how can I get this done, it’s who can get this done?’ As in if I want to do something actually, who can do that? And I think when it comes to getting help and particularly with stuff like this, it’s who can help me. Let’s not try and figure this all out on my own. Who can I sit down and do this spreadsheet with?
Who can I get in my life that will be able to help me out with some of this stuff that I’m not so good at, be it a therapist, just be it a good friend, be it a personal trainer, right? Be it a dietitian if you need to get yourself sorted. Talk to someone who’s done it before. And also, it doesn’t have to be someone necessarily in person. It can be all these courses online. You know, if you want to learn how to do something, there will be something out there. Probably for free, actually. And then you can buy all sorts of stuff out there. So there is so much help out there.
I think particularly in general practice, because we are so used to having to do everything ourselves and the buck stops with us, we do just take on too much of this stuff ourselves, whether it is personal development, or whether it is within our work, but just asking, ‘Who, not how?’ sometimes, can be really helpful.
Gerrie: I’d like to draw together all the things you talked about, and also want to check in with you, Rachel. So we’ve talked about the first step, if you like, is acknowledging, ‘I’m not just busy — I’m a bit too busy.’ And the next step is to go well, ‘How would I like it to be? How would I like it to be rather than? How should it be? What how would I like it to be? And how is it?’ So get it down on paper, draw the draw, there’s a little pie charts.
The next thing is to have a conversation with somebody else. And that is as much about you getting it out, as is somebody else hearing, then there are things that you can do if you’re if you’re the simple thing sounds simple, but it’s hard to do. And that’s why I say it works much better. If you pair up with somebody, and say, what I want you to do is I want an hour online, it works very well online, get down all of the things that you do, and start to look at where those are. Now, the other part is, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself.
If you’re thinking ‘God, I’m thinking I’m being a bit hopeless at the moment’, or I look at the team, ‘They’re just going through the motions’, or ‘My boss is hopeless’, then the only person that you can influence is yourself. So you know all those things that you’re supposed to be doing to look after your well being, contentment and happiness.
Add that into your to do list and decide where you’re going to prioritise it. Start blocking it in the diary, start that thinking of how you want it to be and share it with the people you work with. Start to be playful with how we might make this better how you go from three out of 10 to three and a half out of 10. And then start listening to other people about what they want and what’s working for them. And that’s where delegation can also feel much more empowering.
Rather than that you’re giving people your dirty laundry, somebody else might like to wash your dirty laundry, I just like to throw that in.
Rachel: I love that you’re dirty laundry to someone else. So they can wash it. Love it. Delegate!
Gerrie: Sometimes when I’ve been busy, I’ve wanted that
Rachel: You could also do that! There are ironing services, there are laundry services! You know, there’s pretty much everything these days, which is marvellous. So, Gerrie, that was an absolutely fantastic summary, I knew I normally finished by asking people for three tips, top tips, but actually, you’ve just summarised that really, really well.
And for me, this is so consistent with the message of this podcast about the little things you can do to make a difference. So don’t try going from 3 to 10 go from 3 to 3.5. And if you’re going from three to three and a half, in lots of different areas, then suddenly you realise, actually, things are, things are a lot better. And it says little small changes that we’ve made. And often, it is just those small tweaks that we make to our day, like making sure we put that 10 minute walk at lunchtime or fitting in that 25 minute run.
And we do have the time for those things we do when we think about how much time we spend scrolling on Facebook or watching rubbish on the telly there is that time in the day, but it’s actually it’s being intentional about it, isn’t it?
And so I just like to offer to listeners. Firstly, if you need to just say to somebody, I am feeling overwhelmed, and you don’t know who else to say it to just email us and say it to us and we will hear you. Secondly, if you want to have a conversation with somebody else, and pair up and do this thing about looking through your to do list, then again, let us know. And if we have people, we’ll just literally introduced you via email and you guys can get off and see it for yourself.
I’m a big, big fan of thinking partnerships and people supporting each other. Yeah, we can. We can all do this for each other. And then thirdly, just think about, yeah, sharing this with your teams. How can you do this way you work because if enough of you are thinking about doing this, and you will be able to change the system, the system will shift and that is acknowledging that there are things we can’t do anything about, like the patient demand, the workload at the moment, and those are really really big things.
I do want to acknowledge that again, another elephant in the room, and people are feeling very anxious and worried about that. But let’s start by focusing on yourself and what you can change and then and seeing how that will then actually extrapolate and affect the system. So Gerrie, is it any last messages you’d like to say? And by the way, I’m gonna get you back on the podcast. Is that okay?
Yeah, if it works for people, let if people
Rachel: Leave us a review, let us know. Oh, and the other thing is that we will also put the Thrive week planner tool in the show notes. It’s a way of doing those pie charts, essentially, and work out what your ideal week is, what your current week is, and what the difference between the two is, so people can sign up for that. And if people want to find out more about you and your work, then how can they find you?
Gerrie: LinkedIn is probably the easiest. So you put a link with the podcast and people can connect with me, I, I enjoy hearing what’s going on with people and I share various things about that, including taking breaks time off is time on is one of the things that I’m very keen on, give your brain a chance to make the connections rather than to keep forcing it. If I can, at the end of this. I am a bit of a hippie. And I would like to invite you if you’re still here, you’re still listening is to take three deep breaths and just give yourself a moment. No, you’re not alone.
Rachel: Gerrie, thank you. I will see you again soon.
Gerrie: Take care. Thank you for having me.
Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.