Monthly Archives: June 2016

A thought for June from Your Critical Friend

June already. Lots of clients are examining how things are going right now as they start to prepare for holidays. One said that this year they will relax as they had achieved lots in the last year we have worked together. A good feeling.  There is nothing clever about getting things done: Plan – Do – Review. It is a nice simple formula but a wow once it becomes a routine. So what could possibly go wrong?

Bucket and Spade image


We all know that failure to plan is planning to fail but sometimes there is so much work to do there is no time to plan it. Sometimes it is easier to avoid planning as it means confronting the full gamut of what needs to be done and then committing to it. It can be frightening and so we avoid it and muddle on. A few tips:

  • A good plan makes the doing so much easier, it is worth the time taken to craft it. I like the word “craft” as it implies some thought about which option to take to skin this particular cat. It excludes the others and that works.
  • There are two types of planning: projects and time. Don’t be so obsessed with the second that there is no time for the first. Project planning is the more important.
  • Prioritise the projects. Then divide each one into bit sized chunks. Be realistic about how long each chunk will take AND how much time you need in between stages to collect more data etc. or even just to bask in the enjoyment of having completed a stage.
  • Look at your life and schedule. Work out how to fit in the time for each chunk. Working on the project takes priority over the trivia we all have to do each day. Yes, it does! Trivia can become displacement activity very quickly.
  • But do give yourself a realistic length of time each day to do the routine tasks: making phone calls and sending emails.
  • Make your To Do list for tomorrow today, then you can start at a run.
  • Get your To Do list properly organised and prioritised so it is not just What but When, most important first.


Plan what you need to do and then do it! The problem is that we do not always want to do what we have planned to do; then we find umpteen things to fill our time usually because they are less scary, less taxing or more interesting.


  • Try doing the most difficult thing on your list first when you have most energy; then when it is done you will feel so good. Leaving it until later in the day, staring up at you from your To Do list just makes it more daunting.
  • Work down the list – do not get side tracked.
  • Do not add anything else to the list – once it is written consider it closed to any other items, the only thing that takes priority is a fire or a flood.
  • Follow your plan
  • Keep a note of the project’s process – then it will be easier to review.


Every human being hates reviewing. Probably because we are frightened of confronting what we see as our own failures as we know that our critical inner voice will have plenty to say. However, hiding behind the sofa achieves nothing. So let’s get it over with. We review to learn – the good things so we can enjoy them and do them again; and those we will not do again!  Face up to the bad stuff – no beating yourself up just accept it was not your best work (and remember it may only be you who knows that). Work out what you will do differently next time.

A few tips:

  • Create a celebration ceremony when everything goes right. In one organisation I know they literally put bunting up! And you also need a commiseration wake when things go wrong. Both of these let you deal with the emotions.
  • Only when the emotion is gone face the results of your project and be honest about everything that you did. Sometimes this can be complex and takes a time but it can be the small things that were the difference between success and failure.
  • So let’s talk failure – the person who makes no mistakes is the person who does nothing, the fool is the person who does not learn from mistakes. So failure is not just OK it is essential.
  • Go through the job from start to finish and look at each part of it so that you can see what you did well and where you could improve. If you find it difficult to do on your own find someone to help.
  • Next time you plan a similar project incorporate your learning.

None of this is original. You have heard it all before and any way why am I talking about it in June? Because if you adopt Plan – Do – Review for most of your stuff (let’s be real) you will get the right stuff done and so can take those two weeks’ holiday having a proper break rather than worrying about what you have not done or (worse still taking it with you). You will deserve it and no balls will drop out of the air. This is what you deserve. If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.




A thought from your Critical Friend

The sun is shining, the trees are in full blossom and this could be summer. I hope you are making the most of it. When clients wash up at my door the first task is to unpick their pressing issues. After that anything can happen but I usually have a thought for the month brought on by the time of year, something I have been reading or some commonality of business problems which I would like to share with you.

So what is on my mind this May?

British Garden in summertimeI am committed to targets, goals, objectives whatever sits best with you, and always have been. Over the years my definition has broadened and deepened since that long ago day when I first discovered SMART. You know it well:


SMART is great but it is a model of mechanics – how you bring goals to fruition. I am much more concerned about how we determine our goals.   All my work and the research tells me that we can only focus on a couple of things at one time so too many goals are dangerous, they divert us from where we should be. Effective goals, goals that drive us to achieve are not easy to decide. So what are my tips:

Set aside a time and place to think deeply and widely about what you want for yourself and your business:

  • Proper time: yes, a whole day.
  • Find a place that helps you to think. It could be inside, outside or some mixture of both. You know what works for you, or if you do not then you need to find out!
  • If it feels like something you want to do but realistically think you cannot do it alone then find a friend or mentor to help you.

Carry a notebook:

  • Make it an interesting, fun, stimulating notebook.
  • Frame a sentence describing what you are going to achieve on your Away Day, something like ‘I am going to analyse the parts of my life, highlight where I want to change and then  determine the two most important areas’.
  • As you journey towards your Away Day date carry the notebook and jot down all the mad, wild, random thoughts that come into your mind. Do not censor those thoughts just write them down as they come to you.
  • If you can, think about your possible goals as you go to sleep and jot down the ideas that your subconscious presents.

Go on your Away Day

  • Do not let anything get in the way of having this day. This day is a gift to yourself so do not cheat. Start early and look forward to it as a treat. Raymond Chandler, he who authored The Big Sleep and many other iconic detective novels and films, had a great philosophy. He set aside time to write. If he did not write so be it but he did not allow himself to do anything else – no phone calls, chatting to friends, or even filing to escape the thinking. Try it; it really works.
  • Hopefully your location has no signal or Wi-Fi but if it does switch off all your gizmos and do not be tempted to switch them on again.
  • Concentrate your mind on those areas that matter. What is your dream for 10 years’ time? What do you need to do to make it happen? Next year, this year, this month, this week?
  • The goals that take us forward and make us the best we can be are the ones that come from deep inside us.
  • Look at everything you are doing straight in the face. Some useful questions might be:

How would you rate your current performance?

What is going well, where could you do better?

How do you want life to be?

And how much energy are you prepared to devote to this?

Look at the different parts of your life – your different roles – where are you happy and where unhappy?

Where are you achieving what you want and where not?

Where are things going wrong?

Where are you not enjoying your life, your job, your current balance?

Where do you need more skill?

Where do you need to improve?

Where are you good but have the possibility of being brilliant?

  • Go really deep, dream dreams. What is your passion? What is your driving force?
  • Think about how much change you can manage. All goals need you to change and change can be really painful. Worthwhile but painful. So how much are you prepared to endure? And will you keep it up for at least a month until you have changed your old habit and formed new ones?


  • Once you have gone deep and focused on what you really want to achieve, write it down.  Then chunk your ideas up until they are manageable. Better to have a chewable chunk than a meal that you will not be able to eat.
  • It might be in SMART terms but form a sentence to encapsulate your goal. Repeat it, get the words right and the picture they form. Tweak it until it feels like a second skin. Then write it EVERYWHERE around you. Stick it on the mirror, on your computer, on your whiteboard, on the dashboard in the car etc. make sure that you cannot get away from it. Focus on it every day.  Make sure it is on the top of each day’s To Do list.
  • Expect the pain of moving your mental muscles to do this new exercise. No pain no gain!
  • Once a week review what you are doing. Are you focusing on the right things?
  • If it feels like something you want to do but realistically think you cannot do it alone then find a friend or mentor to help you.

None of this is original. You have heard it all before and anyway why am I talking about it in May with almost half the year gone?  Because, if you did this thoroughly and properly at the start of the year this is the time to see how things are going. However maybe you didn’t do it. Maybe you just plucked off the shelf all those standard resolutions – get fitter, lose some weight, grow the business, be a better Dad, learn a musical instrument whatever. You might even have made them SMART but if they do not really matter I bet you are no nearer to achieving them than you were in January. If that is the case and you are dissatisfied with how things are then do not wait to repeat a failed process in December – DO IT NOW! If you have found this thought to be interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.  Liz