Posts Tagged ‘28 Day Blog Challenge’

28 Day Blog Challenge Learnings

March 3, 2011

YES! I’ve achieved my 28 Day Blog Challenge and it’s time to celebrate!

But before I do this, I always like to look back at what I’ve learned.

My learnings …

I have a Blog chair!

When you compose a blog, do you sit at your computer, do you vary where you write, or do you have a favourite place in your house or office?

During my blog challenge the place where I was most productive …. where ideas flew more readily …. was my blog chair. It’s comfortable and cosy, a bit old and tattered, and offers few distractions. When I’ve tried composing directly on to my WordPress blog, I can be distracted by checking emails / tweets, etc. So for future blog writing sessions, I will resort to my blog chair!

I must admit, though, there were times when the ideas weren’t flowing and I’ve have to resort to blog ironing!

Was it a challenge?

Definitely! I started out quite well prepared, but as the month rolled on my posts were coming out later in the day. A lot of this was to do with working around other commitments (e.g. clients), and it did mean some other things didn’t happen (e.g. not tweeting as much!) It definitely made me more focused, and my time to write blogs did get shorter.


Publishing something on a daily basis which other people can / will read ranks up the accountability factor! I was not only accountable to myself, but potentially to anyone expecting to see a post each day. At times, this definitely helped to keep the momentum going.

What about the benefits?

In one of my first blogs during the challenge I identified some potential benefits to achieving the goal. Having completed the challenge I can now say:

  • I definitely feel more confident writing blogs
  • I don’t think my writing style has really changed over the course of the challenge, but at the moment I am happy with what I’m producing
  • Research into some of the blog topics has further developed my subject knowledge
  • From reading more blogs by other people, and getting into dialogue in the comments section, I have learned more about what people like to read and discuss
  • In terms of adding value, I can only say that I’ve had some positive comments, been invited to guest blog, and some of the posts have been featured in online newsletters

Next steps

It’s an ongoing process! My original blogging goal was to developing my blog writing skills and frequency of posts, delivering weekly posts as a minimum by the end of March. I now plan to write 2 posts a week to see how much of what I’ve learned I can retain and maintain!

If you have managed to follow me through this challenge, I hope you found it interesting / relevant 🙂 Thanks also to those who passed on positive comments and encouragement via Twitter, etc. It was much appreciated!

(Photo courtesy of Keattikorn)

Celebrating achievements

February 28, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 28!!

We work hard, we have expectations of ourselves, we set ourselves targets and goals … but what happens when we achieve them?

Do we celebrate the achievements or ignore them?

Do we share the success with others or keep it to ourselves?

And does our ability to celebrate depend what the achievement is / how big it is?

Today I celebrate the end of my 28 Day Blog Challenge. As my reward, I have booked some time out to walk in Derbyshire. I am also sharing my success in this blog, as well as a blog to come (28 Day Blog Challenge Learnings). Nevertheless, experience has shown me that people I’ve worked with or coached spend less time celebrating success than they do thinking about what’s not gone well. Feelings of disappointment or general satisfaction of personal performance seem to far outweigh the joy of achievement.

Perhaps not everyone needs to feel good about their successes.

But what happens when the achievements are those of members of our team?

As team leaders, do we provide them with a quiet compliment, something more public, or does it go unnoticed? I appreciate that not everyone needs praise or recognition; and there’s not always time during busy working days to compliment colleagues on all their successes. So what’s the right balance?

This year I have been taking part in a business growth program, and the first part of our monthly meetings is sharing our business successes with other members of the group. This has proven to not only get the meetings off to a positive start, but kept us motivated (as well as accountable!)

So how often do you celebrate your achievements?

(Photos: balloons; jump for joy; fireworks)

The power of doing nothing

February 27, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 27

How often do you do nothing?

We lead such busy lives, we rarely find time to switch off, take time out, unwind.

Perhaps a more important question to ask is: What does “doing nothing” mean to you?

For me it’s about one of 3 things:

  1. time out for reflection, usually about my coaching or my business
  2. time away from what I’m doing because I’m stuck with an problem and need a break from it
  3. resting time to recharge the batteries (mentally as well as physically)

The benefits I find are clarity of thought, ability to find solutions, being more creative, and having more energy.

My “nothing” usually involves going for a walk, finding a quiet space in the house, listening to music (which I don’t do often enough!), playing the piano, or doing housework!

What do you do to switch off?

When do you find it’s most beneficial?

(Photos: walker; music; floor cleaner)

Do you crack under pressure?

February 26, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 26

Yesterday’s blog introduced a discussion about ways we deal with pressure and how we respond to pressured situations.

Today I continue with this theme and suggest some tactics you can use when feeling under pressure.

So, do you crack under pressure, or do you have successful strategies to cope with it?

Strategies to ‘de-pressurise’

1. Reduce the importance

Increased feelings of being under pressure can come from the amount of importance we give a situation. By changing our assessment (or perception) of it, to make it less crucial, we reduce the feelings of pressure that accompany it.

2. Reduce the likelihood

We can have a tendency (or habit) to exaggerate the probability of the negative outcome happening. Play this down by asking yourself what the chances are – realistically – of it happening.

3. Thinking differently

As Anne did in yesterday’s scenario, thinking about the situation in a different (solution-focused, practical) way will make it feel less daunting.

Here’s another example:

Scenario: Organising a holiday, but everything seems to be going wrong! …

  • the cheap tickets you saw last week are now twice the price
  • the hotel that was recommended is now fully booked
  • your neighbours have just returned from the country you want to travel to and said they had a terrible time
  • a close friend has invited you to a special meal during your week away
  • you discover your passport is due to expire in 4 weeks

Thoughts about giving up may pass through your mind at this point, but try this alternative way to perceive the situation

  • flying normal as opposed to budget may be more expensive but you may have a more comfortable flight and land at an airport nearer your accommodation
  • you could stay somewhere quieter, rather than a hotel that’s full to bursting
  • ask the neighbours which places to avoid
  • tell your friend you’ll do something special when you get back
  • getting a new passport is often a good opportunity to change that photo you’ve never liked!

How do you change the way you think about situations in order to reduce those feelings of being under pressure?

(Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono)

How well do you know your ABCs?

February 25, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 25

Consider this scenario …

James is sitting in traffic on his way to deliver a seminar at a regional conference. He’s thinking “If this traffic doesn’t move soon, I’m going to be late. There are lots of people expecting me. Why didn’t I leave half an hour earlier or take the train?” He feels completely helpless; the more he realises he can’t do anything, the more angry he gets. His anger turns to dread, which turns into panic. He starts to see the business he’ll lose as a result.

Craig is about 4 cars behind in the same queue. He’s also going to the same conference, and is giving the keynote speech. He realises there’s nothing he can do about the traffic, that there’s no point worrying, and realises a better use of his time would be to practise his speech.

Anne is 4 cars ahead of James. She’s one of the main conference organisers. She has spent the last 10 minutes on the phone (hands free, of course!) to the traffic helpline trying to find out how big the jam is. She’s left a message at the conference centre telling the staff about the situation, and suggests other conference attendees may be in the same queue. She’s asked if the morning can be rearranged to move the informal networking session to first thing, allowing people more time to get there.

3 people in the same situation, each with different ways of dealing with it.

James isn’t dealing with it at all. Craig has a different reaction, deciding to relax rather than stress about it. Whilst Anne has decided upon a problem-focused strategy. She’s looked at what she can do practically, and started to implement a plan.

So what are the ABCs?

We are often faced with pressures; how we perceive them is down to us. We can choose to see them positively or negatively, and the choice we make is down to what we believe about ourselves. Dr Albert Ellis, an American psychologist developed the ABC Model which explores this behaviour pattern. He suggests we don’t go through hard times because of the actual events that happen in our lives, but because of the negative ways we react to them.

A = Activating event (e.g. the queue of traffic)

B = Belief about this event (e.g. lots of people will feel let down; loss of business)

C = Consequence (emotional) of having this belief (e.g. feeling stressed, panicked, anger)

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll be suggesting a few tactics you can use for dealing with pressurised situations. In the meantime – consider the different responses you could have about an event that puts you under pressure.

(Photo credit: EA)

Why the clutter?

February 24, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 24

Coinciding with the appearance of snowdrops, daffodils and tulips, I’ve been thinking about spring cleaning and de-cluttering.

With the de-cluttering bit coming before I can clean any spaces, I’ve so far sorted 2 bookcases (although not like this!) and emptied half my wardrobe. It also felt satisfying de-cluttering my Inbox, although there’s nothing I can physically clean there (in fact that’s a bonus!) So I’m now wondering what else I can clear out / tidy up, and how I ended up here in the first place!

Why do we ‘clutter’?

I often hear people saying they find it hard to throw things away … “because they might come in useful sometime”. Is this you? Or is it about not knowing where to put things / how to organise your possessions?

In Dejunk Your Life Helen Foster suggests a few reasons why we clutter:

1. Age – older people have a “waste not want not” philosophy, having experienced difficult times / depressions. With our recent recession period I see this age group including younger generations too!

2. Right-brained – people who are creative, often late, don’t like working to a schedule, and use lots of visual stimuli, have a tendency to clutter. They find it hard to file / categorise things because they can think of a few different places where things could go.

3. Parents – we pick up habits from our parents or significant others who we live with. Foster suggests that if your parents were over-tidy you might rebel by not clearing up after you; whilst “deprived” children will develop a tendency to surround themselves with things out of security.

4. Gender – when encouraged to de-clutter, men like to keep things, but want to be helped to compartmentalise things better (particularly paper). Alternatively, whilst women like to buy lots of stuff and don’t get around to throwing things out, once they are shown what’s useless, they want it gone!

I realise these are generalizations, but you might recognize yourself in there somewhere! I fall into categories 2 and 4.

Do you have a tendency to clutter?

Have you had this habit in the past, but no more?

When is clutter a good thing?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

(Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith)

I assume, therefore I am right!

February 23, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 23

Yesterday I introduced the idea of making assumptions about situations, and shared with you my culinary disaster story.

Today I’m focusing on assumptions about people.

In coaching, it’s important that the coach asks the client clarification questions, to avoid assumptions being made about the client’s situation or thoughts. This is the case especially when a coach specialises in a particular area of personal development. For example, it would counter-productive for me to assume that when coaching one head teacher on leadership team development they face the same issues as another head teacher working on the same topic.

In the workplace there are many opportunities to make assumptions:

  • assuming people have received / read messages
  • assuming your line manager will be too busy (or won’t want) to speak to you
  • assuming your colleague will be late again
  • assuming you’ll make a mess of your presentation to the team

Sometimes it’s necessary to assume some things will always hold true, but not if they hold you (or others) back. Consider …

  • How much weight your assumptions carry
  • What else is possible if you don’t assume these things

As Alan Alda said: “Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Last year, I worked with a team leader who used to be part of the team she is now leading. Much of what we discussed and resolved was how to tackle assumptions made by her team about her ability to do the role well. They had certain expectations of her based on their assumptions about her.

I leave you with 2 questions:

What are you assuming about others you work with?

What do you often assume about yourself which could be holding you back?

Would love to hear your thoughts about this topic.

Making assumptions and the balloon whisk

February 22, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 22

I’ve recently taken to developing my culinary skills and bought the new Jamie Oliver “30 minute meals” cook book. The hope is to cook great meals in a shorter amount of time! So far, the recipes have proven to be very tasty and if I can get everything prepared before I start – I can get close to 30 minutes!

What helps you achieve the 30 minute deadline is the use of blenders, electric whisks, microwave and other electrical implements to cut down the preparation time. Last week I made a meal which involved using a food processor and various attachments.

Towards the end of the cooking time I had to whisk some ingredients that were heating in a wide pan. I assumed that I’d need the balloon whisk that attached to the food processor ….. how wrong could I have been.

Needless to say most of the contents of the pan ended up out of the pan and up the wall behind the cooker. In my haste, I hadn’t read the instructions carefully – it should have been a normal hand-held balloon whisk. I won’t be making that mistake again!

Why do we make assumptions?

Do we do it because it’s easier / quicker to assume something or someone will behave in a certain way?

Do we do it because experience has shown us that in most cases the pattern has been the same?

Have you ever made an assumption about a situation that has proven to be incorrect?

I think most of us would answer “yes” to the last question. We assume that because the traffic will be quieter at certain times of day, we allow less travelling time than if we thought it was busy. We assume that because our local Deli has our favourite cheese in every time we visit, it’ll be there for us when we need it for that special occasion.

What about assumptions about people and their behaviour?

More on this in tomorrow’s blog …

Want more confidence in the workplace?

February 21, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 21

What builds confidence at work?

  • self belief?
  • positive feedback?
  • achieving success?
  • having clear focus and direction?

How much do you enjoy what you do, and how much of that is a reflection of your confidence levels at work?

Results from my recent Goal Setting Survey showed that just over 20% of respondents are setting their goals for 2011 in the area of building confidence in the workplace.

Confidence is about feeling comfortable in your own skin, believing in your abilities, and knowing that you can cope with whatever comes your way in a calm and measured way. It comes from being motivated, sticking with your values and principles, and finding your passion.

If you find yourself needing to build confidence at work, here are a few tips to get you started…

Being specific

“Building confidence at work” is a very general statement and quite vague when it comes to deciding what action to take. So be specific. Think about which particular areas of your work (or your working day) make you feel least confident. This will narrow the focus and make it more realistic to tackle.

Acting the part

Our body language, tone of voice and words often tell others how confident we are feeling. 55% of what you communicate face to face comes from your body language. So how would a more confident you look? Would you be standing taller, shoulders back, and weight distributed evenly? Look at others who you consider are confident – how do they communicate confidence through body language?

Ask for feedback

Some of our confidence comes from positive feedback, either from recognising in ourselves what we’ve done well, or from being told by others. It’s good to know how well we are doing, and if you aren’t getting feedback, perhaps it’s time to ask! Start with people whose opinions you trust and act positively on what you hear.

Also bear in mind here that you could look in a range of areas for your feedback, including customers / clients, not just peers and line managers.

Learning blogging from others

February 20, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 20

Improving blog writing skills, for me, is not only about the “just do it” philosophy. It’s about research.

Since I started blogging I’ve been interested in other people’s blogs … how often they blog, their writing style, their general content, use of graphics, how many comments they get, etc. One of my actions during my 28 Day Blog Challenge has been to spend more time on research.

So far, my wanderings have usually taken me down the path of blogs within my own field of work; personal development, leadership, education, and business development. I’m getting more of an idea what I like to read about, the styles of presentation I prefer, and length of blog post I’m willing to spend time on. (NB The latter can also be dependent on how interesting the subject matter is!)

I keep reading how important it is to have a plan with your blog. This makes total sense for me, being in the field I’m in. So the shorter-term goal for the research is to come up with a blogging policy to help me formulate blogs in the future.

In  the meantime, here are some of the conclusions I’ve come to ….

1. Paragraph size If the paragraphs look too long it would put me off starting to read it, unless it’s a topic I’m really interested in and I have the time. I usually know when I visit Dan Rockwell‘s blog or Louise B-J‘s that I won’t have to struggle through lots of long paragraphs.

2. Clean look and feel When I arrive at a blog site/page I like to see space around the posts, rather than having to spend time searching to find where things start and finish. White space is best for readability (see Steve Riege) but I’ve also seen some that manage the clean look without being white.

3. Clearly identified Once I arrive at a blog, I want to see the post I’ve been directed towards (or the latest post), and not be distracted by adverts. There’s nothing wrong with using adverts, but I’d rather they don’t overpower the page.

4. Taking a peek! I also like the blog sites where you can see snippets of blogs, such as Tyrell Mara‘s, Craig Jarrow‘s or Vicki Berry‘s.

5. Visually pleasing Relevant content is #1 for me, but I’m very ‘visual’ and am drawn to blogs that are aesthetically pleasing! Monster Thinking‘s blog comes quite close. Blogs don’t always need to contain pictures, but if there’s one that can add to the content, I prefer it.

I’m still no expert and am continuing to learn from others, so I’d love to hear your experience / expertise on this area.

What do you look for in a good blog?

Does your own blog reflect your preferences?

Do you have a blogging plan? How useful have you found it?

(Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan)