Reflections on the 30-Day Blog Challenge

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Hard to believe but the end of the challenge is here, today’s is blog number 30!!! Looking back, I was naive when I set the 30-Day Blog Challenge; I didn't appreciate how all-consuming it would become or just how hard it would be to write something that had to be purposeful and contain good, valuable content. Here's my reflections on some of the things I have I learnt from the process. I am sure, as time passes and I have more time to reflect upon it, there'll be other things that come up.

From the Writing itself:

When I wasn't actually writing it, I was planning, making notes or thinking about the one I was writing or the one I would be writing the next day. Although, I did write two blogs in one day with the intention of giving myself a break on one occasion, it never actually happened the way I planned and ended up writing every day. This was a good thing in one sense because it was useful in developing a writing habit, but it was also relentless. The original plan was for the blogs to be 500 words but the reality of this, was that it is quite difficult to write about some things within such a word count. On the positive side, what it has shown is that I can write in excess of 30, 000 words within a month; my hat goes off to those who do the NaNoWriMo challenge where they are committed to writing 50k words in 30 days (if you've never heard of this, just Google it, their dedication is totally amazing.)

When you are in the flow of writing, it is a wonderful feeling. I get into a similar state when I am having a coaching session. It is about being fully present in the activity, everything that is going on around you is filtered out and you are creating a state of utmost joy and connection with what you are doing or the person you are working with. If you have not experienced the state of flow, then you are missing out and I would encourage you to pursue something wholeheartedly where you can achieve this state. For those of you that have, you'll know what I am talking about and I'd be interested to hear more about what activities generate this feeling for you.

The time of the writing was important, I seemed to be more productive when writing in the morning, though sometimes this was not always possible. There were also a couple of times when I pulled late nighters which really put me under pressure so that it could be posted online before midnight. This has implications now when it comes to working on some other aspects of my business, anything creative or on the admin side of things. Maybe you find you work better, more effectively at certain times of the day.

I also realised that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It would have been very easy to get too hung up on the post being perfect before I published it. However, you can keep editing, re-writing and always thinking of something else in an effort to make them perfect. In the end, I reached the point that they didn’t need to be perfect, they needed to be out there. Trying to be perfect is another way to procrastinate.

Focus:

I'm not going to lie, maintaining focus was difficult at times but it helped knowing what the end goal was and what I needed to do each day. Breaking the task down into smaller chunks helped with avoiding overwhelm. If I'd have said at the start, I need to write 30k words in a month, this would have been quite daunting. It's a bit like going on a journey, imagine sailing around the world, going from the Portsmouth to Sydney in Australia. You aren't going to be able to do it in one go but if you plan stop off points and stay on course, you'll eventually get there. Yes, it will be hard work, and require a lot of effort. There'll even be some storms along the way, times when you feel like giving up and stopping, but if you keep focused and don't lose sight of reaching Sydney, you'll be happy when you pull into the harbour and see the Opera House, just as the sun is setting.

I knew what I needed to do and my reasons for fulfilling the challenge, this helped me maintain my focus.

Commitment:

In my very first blog I spoke about declaring your goals and I did this when it came to doing this challenge. I made a commitment to you as the reader, highlighting my intention and I also made a commitment to myself to complete the challenge. Sometimes it is hard to remain committed but whilst I might have questioned the purpose behind what I was doing when the going got tough, I never thought of giving up. Neither did I ever think about missing a day and not posting anything, even if no one would have noticed, it would have felt like I was cheating; that's not me.

Accountability:

It is easy to underestimate the importance of accountability. It is a very powerful tool and one which I encourage others to use if they are facing their own challenge and wanting to achieve a specific goal. I set this challenge with a fellow coach, Chris, and we held each other to account. No matter what time of day we emailed each other to announce the completion of the daily task. We discussed how we were both finding it, because not only were we accountability partners on this journey but we provided each other with support when it was needed. For me, being held to account by a peer was crucial to help me maintain my focus, remain committed and getting the job done. It is why accountability within a coaching session is a vital component to achieving the outcome you want.

Emotional Side:

Sometimes it was difficult and some days, I didn't want to write, I just wasn't in the mood for it. But there are times in your life when you don't want to do something, and you do it anyway. The whole month was a roller coaster of emotions. To start with, there was the excitement of the challenge, a few days in the realisation of this was going to be tougher than I thought it was. After a week, it was a case of "OMG, what the hell have you done? You are not going to do this." Mid way, it was the relief that I was half way through and maybe this was a survivable activity. Then with a week to go, it was back to despair, "what am I going to write about now?!" I'll admit there were a couple of days when I was just down right ratty. Looking back, I think the last week was the toughest, because you know you're close to finishing and part of your mind is rushing off ahead to what life will be like once this is over and it takes more of an effort to remain focused.

I did find that when I wasn't in the mood for writing a way to get around this was to use pen and paper rather than using the computer to write. The tactile nature of writing on paper was much more productive at getting the creative juices flowing and help me to find my voice and tell a story. I wonder if the slower, more sensual pace of this process actually helps to quieten the mind so that it is focused more on what you are trying to convey? Who knows? But I do know this, it helped me overcome any periods of writers’ block which is what I wanted it to do.

Now this is the last day, my emotions are mixed. In one sense I will miss elements of the challenge so there is a tinge of sadness. There is another part of me that is looking forward to switching off thinking about writing every day. I am immensely proud of what Chris and I have achieved and how we have gone about this challenge. I am amazed at just how much I have written in this relatively short amount of time. And I enjoyed the creative element side of it, and I think as people, we need to have an opportunity to express our creativity in one form or another for the good of our emotional well-being. I hope that you can find inspiration, not only from the blogs themselves, but in doing a challenge of your own if there is something you are wanting to achieve. It is a great way to stop procrastinating and get cracking on with something important to you.

Support:

Whilst I was the sole writer of these blogs, I had the support of others around me and it highlighted once again the importance of having people in your corner. They encourage, question and push you along, especially in this instance, when writing was a struggle. My biggest support is my husband who is also manages all things IT for me; I know I drive him mad at times and there were a couple of times when I was ‘threatened’ with him downing tools if I didn't have the post ready for him by a certain time. Of course, he uploaded it to the website no matter what the time was, but it just shows that you can't or don't have to do everything by yourself, there will always be someone you can call upon for support.

Next steps:

Now we are at the end of the 30-Day Blog Challenge, what now? Well, I won't be writing blog posts on a daily basis, but I am committed to maintaining a writing habit and posting new content weekly. My purpose for writing the blogs was for you to hear my voice and stories, to get to know more about me and who I am as a person and as a Career and Life Coach. I wanted to give you different knowledge and perspectives, tools to use in your everyday lives. I wanted you to gain a better understanding of what life coaching is and that coaching is accessible to everyone and for whatever challenge they want to tackle in their life.

Coaching is not a self-indulgent activity because you are worth the investment in time and money. It is a tool like any other, a way to make things easier and more efficient at dealing with a problem or challenge. It is a way to help you getting from where you are now to where you want to be. You need coaching so long as the problem still exists; once the solution is found and you are achieving your outcome, you no longer need it. Hopefully I have provided you with something that you can and will use, as well as giving you a greater insight into coaching.

I am interested to hear if there are any particular areas you would like me to discuss going forward. I would also be keen to get your feedback on any of the blogs, you can email me at ruth@rlcoachingsolutions.co.uk if you do want to share.

5 Steps to Deal with Procrastination

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I am not ashamed to admit that just because I am a Coach there are not times when I am in the depths of procrastination. When I am procrastinating, you'll see me surfing the internet on the pretence I am doing "research", I'll be tidying up my work space at home (this normally only ever happens when the mountain of paperwork is about to collapse) or I'll be outside gardening.

 I have learnt I am one of those people who needs to be in the right mood or have firm deadlines, challenges or competition to get something done; especially when there are lots of things to do. In light of this new-found self-awareness, I set a challenge between two coaches to see if we could write 30 blog posts in 30 days throughout the month of April. I said it wasn't a competition, but the lack of a poker face gave it away because in my head, I was turning it into one.  As the trailer for the new Avengers movie, Endgame, points out..."Whatever it takes!" Not a Marvel fan? Oops, you should be :-)

 I'm a writer when I am in the mood for it, when I get into flow, when an idea pops into my head. Producing useful and quality content requires greater discipline to get into the habit of writing. For some people, they have the internal control and motivation to get things done, sometimes I need those external influences. I can't just rely on whether I am feeling in the mood for it. What about you? When it comes to procrastination, ask yourself, "what's stopping me from taking action?"

 It's important to be realistic about what's achievable within the timescales you have. If there is one thing I have learnt, things take longer to do than you think. When I set the 30 blog posts in 30 days, I considered that to be something which would stretch me but at the same time be achievable. A bonus from the challenge before it even started was the planning of it has been more fun than I thought it was going to be, so I am hopeful the next 30 days will continue to be as enjoyable.

I could probably list at least 20 steps to deal with procrastination but if I did that, would you think "woah, that's too many steps to work through, I'll go clean the bathroom or check through my emails again instead?" Therefore, I’ll to cut it down to 5 because I think this is more doable and I am all about making life simpler and easier.

 1. Change Your Script: It's time to change the record and stop with the excuses. Recognise we often lie to ourselves; how many times have you told yourself that you're scrolling through your Facebook feed because you want to know what's going on? Understand what's really behind why you are procrastinating? Are you avoiding something out of fear? Are you seeking something out because it is more fun and exciting? Create a narrative in which you are honest with yourself and a script which empowers you to act, there and then and stop with the procrastinating.

2. Give Yourself Permission: Cut yourself some slack and relieve some of the pressure. Often, we put ourselves under so much pressure that this becomes stifling and restrictive. We can't think clearly and rather than taking action, it has the opposite effect, causing us to do nothing at all. This is especially true if you have got lots on at work or you run your own business. You feel you must keep on working all hours to keep up or get ahead, feeling guilty or frustrated if you don't. It is OK to have a break from what you are doing and binge on a Netflix show just for the hell of it.

3. Small Chunks: One of the many reasons we often procrastinate is because the task ahead is too big or arduous and we become overwhelmed. This then leads to inaction which causes us to feel negative emotions such as guilt and frustration, quickly followed by anger at ourselves, maybe spilling over into your interactions with others. To avoid this, break the task or goal down into smaller tasks or actions, making them more manageable and achievable. This 30-day blog challenge reflects this point nicely, if I do say so myself.

4. Reconnect with Your Why: Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the why behind our end goal. Remember and focus on your why, not just the immediate task ahead. Whilst you might have chunked down your tasks to make them more manageable, draw energy and motivation from your bigger picture. Reconnect with your why to give you the push you need during the times of procrastination.

5. Find an Accountability Partner: The one thing that got this 30-blog challenge off the ground was having someone to hold me to account each day and vice versa. Furthermore, I also declared my intention to other people. My husband has asked me 3 times today if I have written the blog yet, so I know he isn't going to let me off the hook. I suppose the more people I tell of my intention, the more determined I am to complete the challenge. If you find yourself stuck in a never-ending cycle of procrastination, find your accountability partner, declare your deadlines and highlight your intentions. Follow through with your declaration and then bask in the glory of getting the job done!