Zena Everett reveals the time-wasters to drop in order to make time for what matters.
- The top things slowing us down at work
- The questions to ask for effective prioritization
- How to say no nicely
Leadership Coach and Speaker Zena Everett is the author of Mind Flip, Take the Fear out of Your Career and the award winning Crazy Busy Cure.
Originally a recruitment entrepreneur, Zena sold her business in 2007 then studied an MSc in Career Management and Coaching. She then took further postgraduate qualifications in psychological coaching and leadership with neuroscience (MIT Sloan Business School). She has coached on the Executive MBA Programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and is a member of the Associate Faculty at Henley Business School.
- Book: The Crazy Busy Cure: A productivity book for people who don’t have time to read productivity books
- Website: ZenaEverett.com
- Book: Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice by Alan Weiss
- Book: Money Talks: How to Make a Million As A Speaker by Alan Weiss
- Past Episode: 572: How Morning Practices Like Savoring and Investing in Calm Boost Productivity with Chris Bailey
- Past episode: 766: Marshall Goldsmith on Simple Shifts for a More Fulfilling Career and Life
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Zena, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.
Delighted to be here. Thank you for having me.
Well, we’re talking productivity and time stuff, which is a favorite topic of mine, as well as listeners. And I love your book title so much The Crazy Busy Cure: A productivity book for people who don’t have time to read productivity books. Please lay it on us, Zena, what do you mean by crazy busy? And how is your book sort of distinctive in that it’s for those who don’t have time to read such books?
Yeah. And I’m nervous about talking about productivity because that sounds like we’re trying to get people to do even more and more, and I’m not sure we are, really. I think we’re getting people to separate the meaningful from the meaningless. But I’m a coach, and my clients kept saying to me, “Oh, yeah, I’m really crazy busy. I’m crazy busy,” and it just was kind of going through our head all the time. And I thought, “This isn’t a good thing.”
You know, the type of person, they’d be late for a session, and everything would kind of be thrown across the table, and they haven’t thought, and they have no time to think, and I’d been asked to coach them because they were causing bottlenecks for everybody else in the organization. And I just thought, “Gosh, this is really interesting. Why are people so crazy busy? Is it them?” and it is to a certain extent, but it’s also a systemic thing. So, that’s what I got really interested in.
Okay. And so, your book is for folks who don’t have time to read such books. I’m curious, is there a particular…where my mind goes in reading that is thinking about sort of like a time ROI, and Chris Bailey talks about this, in terms of like minutes spent on a thing will yield more minutes back to you for having done so. Are there some particular insights or tools or tactics that are really transformational along these lines?
Even when you say things like that, it makes me get a bit stressed because that’s sort of minute ROI and all those kinds of things. What I realized is that I found some great research by Bain, actually, where I know where you were a long time ago. So, what they talked about, this whole concept of organizational drag, so I realized that crazy busyness is a thing and it’s got a name, which I call productivity drag.
And these are all the things that kind of slow down the system, that makes it really hard to get any work done. And that is excessive complexity and collaboration, so we want all organizations to be inclusive, but having too many people around the table just means you’ve got too many competing opinions and competing agendas, and often nobody there who’s strong enough to align those and ask the right questions.
So, there’s too much complexity, digitization – amazing because this is how we’re doing this, but sometimes it can layer a layer of fake work, crazy busy work on top of the real work, and I definitely put messaging and teams and social media in there. And then there’s excessive organizational complexity, where there are just far too many systems and processes.
And then overservicing, actually. That’s the fourth, which I realize sometimes I do. I overservice some clients who actually, in terms of ROI, I don’t get that much back. And that can happen when you’re in a business partnering role. So, I think you’ve got those kinds of systemic organizational factors that slow us down. And then you’ve got our own ability to not say no, possibly, or please everybody, all that stuff that gets us here in the words of Marshall Goldsmith, but don’t get us there.
So, I think you combine the two, and that’s why it’s just so hard to get anything done. And you know as well, Pete, that we are switching all the time, aren’t we? Most of our tasks just take a couple of minutes. We’re switching, switching all the time rather than actually doing deep work. And there’s umpteen things being written about deep work and flow, but that’s the holy grail of this stuff, isn’t it?
Certainly. Okay. So, that makes sense in terms of a cocktail for crazy busyness if you’ve got some organizational drag things going on, a bunch of complexity and collaboration, and overdoing it, and then our own difficulties internally putting together, and there you go, crazy busy, here we are. So, I’m curious, where do you recommend folks start? If they find themselves in a crazy busy situation and we want to get out in a jiffy, what do you recommend as some of the first key steps that make a world of difference?
I always think our grandparents could run this kind of work because it’s so obvious. It’s first principles, isn’t it? I think it’s going back to people to say, “Actually, what am I really measured on here? What’s my job description? When I’m next in front of my boss or a promotion board or something like that, what do I want to talk about that I’ve actually achieved? And does how I run my role and spend my days reflect that?” because very often it doesn’t.
You know this, we sacrifice our priorities on the altar of everybody else’s urgent demands. So, I say to my clients, “Right. Actually, what is the difference between you and an outstanding performer? What are they achieving? What’s the gap? That’s where you need to focus your time.” So, all that stuff you say yes to, well, we can spend a lot of time saying yes to discretionary activities, all the other things that come our way, all those curve balls, some of which are career-enhancing because they’re interesting, or we’re learning, or they give us access to new networks but, actually, me making you more crazy busy, because I haven’t finished my work, and I say, “Well, look, Pete, would you mind?” isn’t a good thing.
So, that’s why I say, right, just take a step back actually and slow things down to go faster, and actually work out, “What is the top level of my job description?”
Well, Zena, can you tie that together for us with an inspiring story of someone who escaped crazy busyness by following such a process?
I’ve got lots of examples, actually, so maybe I should sort of kind of talk about Captain Fantastic. So, I think my typical client would be somebody who got promoted, maybe they’ve been great at their job, they’ve always been hot on execution, worked harder than everybody else, long hours, just delivered. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, all that kind of stuff.
And then they’re doing really well at the job, and somebody says, “Hey, look, here’s an intern. Take them on. They know nothing. They’re clueless. Well done,” and nobody ever says to that person, “Right. You’re already spending 120% of your hours doing your job.” Nobody ever says, “Right. This is how you need to make your job more efficient to find time for managing those people.”
Anyway, invariably, they do, and then they end up having a team around them, and that’s often my absolute definition of a crazy busy client. It’s somebody on that sweet spot who’s managing their own contribution but they’re running a team as well, and they probably got a team of mixed ability, maybe some people they’ve inherited or they’re brand new and so on.
And those are the people that I would love to coach, and I have a really robust discussion with to say, “Right. You need to go back and talk to your boss about how much time you should be spending on your own work, and how much time you should be spending on management.” And we don’t talk about time in that respect. I think it’s rare.
Our manufacturing cousins would be everything is timed on the production line, isn’t it? We’re really sure about how long it takes to do when, and everything is fairly timed. Whereas, it’s rare that somebody says, “That report should take you 45 minutes. If you just do it once, do it properly, get it done, it’s about 45 minutes, and this is what good practice looks like.”
So, we’re nervous about micromanaging people, that’s what managers say to me all the time, “Oh, I really don’t want to micromanage people” But, actually, I think we’ve got to be about old school about this, and give some people some sense about how to structure their days, how long tasks should take, and get them to put some kind of rigor and discipline in them.
Because, at the moment, what we know is that work is just cannibalizing into people’s personal time. We’re getting our tasks done but we have this low level of anxiety, hopefully, only low level, no worse than that, because we always feel anxious because there’s just so much to do and we never get to inbox zero, do we, or whatever it is, and there’s always more projects, and there’s more things we can be doing, and never mind all the liking and posting and all that kind of crazy nonsense.
Well, yeah, that’s a great tip right there in terms of when it’s knowledge work, it can be super fuzzy with regard to you can do a report in 45 minutes, you could do a report in four hours, and I find those guidelines quite helpful, myself, both on the giving and the receiving end because sometimes it really is essential. I’ve spent all day on an email before, and it was absolutely the right choice. That email was mission critical and involved tens of thousands of dollars, so felt great about that.
And the other times, you can go way overboard on something that is like, “No, you just have to kind of check the box so that we know that’s checked, and then we’re fine,” or, “Well, this is going to be edited by six more people anyway down the road so no need to stress it too much because it’s going to be revised like the Dickens so just go ahead and get the rough outline and structure starter point in play and then we’re good to go.”
So, yeah, I think that is helpful as opposed to micromanage-y. And do you have an idea, or thought, or guideline for when does something become micromanagement versus is it just good wholesome quality guidance that is useful and appreciated?
I like a bit of wholesome quality guidance but I think once we get people cured from crazy busyness, they’re much better managers, and then they’ve got time to say, “Pete, what can I back off and let you get on with?” I think that’s the thing is to have that continuous conversation. And when people are maybe working partly from home and partly in the office and juggling all that kind of stuff, sometimes we need more help than people expect, sometimes we need less, so you can’t overcommunicate on this kind of stuff.
But my real bug bear that really drives me mad is this whole culture of continuous synchronous working. So, this feeling the need to send you Teams Messenger, or WhatsApp, or something, and you respond to that immediately, and I think that is a thing that really slows people down because, aside those occasional days when you spend a whole day on an email, and you probably need to take a step away and come back and look at it again, and maybe sleep on it, all those things, that’s fine.
But, fundamentally, most of us, as you very well know, we’re just switching tasks all day, aren’t we, because people need us, and people need us now. So, I get my clients to have more meetings, which they aren’t that happy about, but better. I’d get them to put some real rigor into their meetings and sharpen up.
Have you ever said to somebody, “Oh, look, do that meeting for me?” and you think, “Great. I’ve saved myself a couple of hours there.” And then the person comes out of the meeting, and you say, “All right. How did it go? What happened?” and they brief you in about two sentences, don’t they, “Oh, yeah, we did this and Jim is doing this. That’s it.”
So, I’m always curious by how my clients can spend so much time in really rubbish meetings that they shouldn’t be in, but they don’t have time to say to you, “Really liked how you write that report. Actually, you can try and make it quicker now,” or whatever it is. So, there’s definitely something about communicating properly once rather than having this continuous stream of consciousness where we feel we should be connected to our teams, well, almost 24/7 in some cases. This drip, drip, drip of Teams messages.
So, I think if we can kind of eliminate that and get people to work away on their own, do some deep thinking, work in flow, all the kind of basic productivity stuff that we’ve all been reading about, and then come back, and then connect and have proper rigorous meetings, life would be so much better. But there seems to be a lot of wasted time in inefficient meetings that we could do something about.
And I think that we need to use technology better so that it’s just a kind of briefing rather than a discussion, or a celebration, or a brainstorm, or decisions to be made, obviously, then there is no reason for that to be a meeting. Our manufacturing colleagues would never get everybody to down tools at the same time because it’s such an expensive investment of time but we’re frivolous with our time. That’s a very long answer, isn’t it?
Well, I was agreeing with you with regard to that manufacturing analogy. It does feel kind of silly to say, “Okay, hey, everyone, stop. Stop things you’re doing, put down the chainsaw or kind of whatever is going on there, and we’re going to chat about this thing.” It’s just sort of a head scratch, like, “What? Why? What’s happening right now? And why? This doesn’t seem so critical. Is there an emergency? Like, is something catastrophic occurring?”
It’s fuzzy and yet, in professionals, that world is still plenty expensive to have whatever, six, ten people in a room all at the same time, and there is that interruption of flow factor in there as well. So, that really puts in the context that, “Yeah, those meetings are destructive.” So, I’m curious, when you mentioned people-pleasing and not saying no, do you have any pro tips on how we professionals can do that better? How does one decline a meeting politely, diplomatically, effectively in a none career-limiting fashion?
Well, how do you do it, because you must do it all the time?
Well, I sort of have the luxury of being the owner/CEO, and so there’s nobody above me to ask me things. So, then it’s like this great mass of the external world which I have license to engage or disengage as I please. So, in a way, I’m spoiled and I don’t have that much of a problem.
Do you ever feel guilty if you say no to people?
Well, my wife, I would.
You should never say no to your wife, ever. What are you saying no to your wife about? Let’s talk about that. Let’s get your wife on.
I guess when I was an employee, I did, it’s like, “Oh, shucks, I’m invited to this meeting. Oh, I don’t really think it’s viable for me to be there? How do I say this just right?” so I did have those consternations and worries. So, what do you recommend to folks inside organizations?
I hate that word stakeholder. It’s really kind of cliché, isn’t it? But I think you have to work out who your best stakeholders are. Everybody in this kind of field of time management, we’ve got Pomodoros, or frogs, or something, and I love that antelope and field mice analogy. Do you know that one?
So, you’ve got to know who your main stakeholders are. And I love the analogy of the lions who only chase antelopes. So, they know that they can’t spend their whole day chasing after little furry critters because it’s not worth it. The calorific intake that they need, they wouldn’t get from lots of small things. It’s not worth it. They just let them go.
Whereas, we love to chase anything, don’t we? We love the dopamine hit of crossing something off our list, and our brains can’t distinguish between whether that’s a significant thing, an antelope that we can feed off or if it’s just a load of small field mice. And I am as guilty as anybody of writing small stuff down just to have the pleasure of crossing them off.
So, we’ve got to know who our antelopes are, and so that can be significant tasks, when we’ve got some big goals and we’ve broken them down, yes, sounded stuff, but, actually, we also need to know who those antelope people are as well. Apologies to any vegans who are finding this distasteful. But I think you got to know who the important people are.
And you can’t just jump and overservice people, and you’ve got to know who to say, “Yes, great. I’d really love to get involved,” and go through that thought process, “What’s good for my career? What am I trying to achieve? Where do I need to increase my visibility? If I do this, is this going to give me a new skill? Is this going to give me access to new networks?”
Does that sound calculating? I think we’ve got to be sensible about this, and some people are better than others. There’s so much about saying no, isn’t there? You just say no nicely. Don’t over-explain. Our Royal Family have got an expression of saying, “Never explain. Never complain.” And I think that’s really good. So, the more detail you go into about why you haven’t got five minutes, clearly, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. But you can just say, “Look, I can’t do it.”
But I try and get, I run these “Crazy Busy” sessions, and I teach people, just say, to sequence, “I can’t do that now but I’ll do it, don’t worry. The first available space I’ve got is 8:00 o’clock tomorrow,” or whenever, “Wednesday week and I’ll do it then,” whatever. Hopefully, they’ll disassociate themselves by then. So, I think we need to get into the habit of pushing back, and I think we just need to say, “Yes, I can, and this is when I can fit it in.”
Again, our manufacturing colleagues, if I came to you, and said, “Look, I don’t know, here’s my test tube. Test it in your testing laboratory,” you wouldn’t say, “Of course, I’ll stop the whole line, all those other test tubes will go crashing off the sides.” You just say, “Yes, of course. We start again at 3:00 o’clock, and yours will be the first on there.” So, we’ve just got to approach our work in the same way, and say, “Yeah, I can schedule it in then. How’s that?” And if that doesn’t work, then find somebody else to do it the nicest possible way.
All right. So, we got that great clarity associated with who the people who really matter, and what is the work, and the projects that really matter, and the things you’re being judged or graded upon. Cool. And so then, I’d love for you to elaborate on the just say no nicely. Do you have any favorite phrases, scripts, verbiage?
I’ve learnt, one of my clients taught me to say, “I’ve noticed…” so that’s a very nice way of dealing with things because I think the people that cause the greatest problems, actually, are the ones we can’t say no to. We soon learn to say, “Yeah, I can’t do that now. I’ll do it later,” or, “Actually, I really can’t get involved in this. I don’t have the capacity.”
But the ones that are the real problems are the, “You sending me a message, say, at 7:30 every morning when you wake up, saying, ‘I need this for a meeting at 9:00,’ and you’re my boss, and I’m terrified of you, and so I don’t know how to deal with it, and I’m hardwired to do it straightaway.” So, “I’ve noticed…” is a really nice way to start a conversation, to say, “Pete, I’ve noticed that you’re often sending me emails at 7:30 asking for information. Oh, that’s no problem. I love doing it for you, but…” okay, maybe not quite as revolting as that.
“But how about I have sight of your diary. Once a week, you can show me what meetings you’ve got coming up and then I can make sure I schedule time to get all that information from you?” So, “I’ve noticed…” is a really nice way to talk about someone’s behavior and how you want it to change rather than making it personal.
So, I think that’s a conversation-starter to say, “How can we do this and get a bit more organized?” because crazy busy people are a real problem for everybody else, because they’re multitasking, they’re always missing deadlines, everything at the last minute, they’re perfectionists often so that slows things down because perfectionists are more likely to procrastinate. They cause problems for everybody else, so we almost need to learn how to have conversations with crazy busy people so we’re not crazy busy by default. It’s not pushed down the chain.
Okay. So, let’s say we’ve done all those things masterfully in terms of we’ve gotten clarity on what’s important and who’s important, and pushed back effectively on, “I’m not going to that meeting. I’ve noticed this behavior. I’m going to schedule some time to do these things.” If we’ve tamed the external world, what are some of the top things we got to focus in on with our internal world?
Okay, I’ve gone on the external world. Often, when I talk to people about what sucks up their time the most, they talk about emails and messages; so emails, meetings, and messages, systems, processes, inter-team communication, networking, so I just add to your list. I would usually encourage people to have a talk about internal communication, like, “Can we stop emailing each other? Can we just talk? Can we go and have lunch and get all this dealt with rather than, again, this kind of James Joyce stream of consciousness all day?”
I think our internal world is often that people-pleasing, those messages we’ve internalized, “If you work harder than everybody else, you’ll do well,” the stuff. We look at maybe our parents, caregivers, people from our early lives that we’ve observed, they worked incredibly hard, they’ve done well. Actually, the world is slightly different now. It’s the thinking that makes the difference. It’s the creativity, it’s the innovation, it’s the space to lead, it’s time to think for us.
So, I think we’ve got to realize that, actually, the whole MO for getting us to a certain level in our careers has to shift when we want additional responsibility because we can’t run around like a headless chicken looking stressed. So, I think it’s some real self-talk about, again, like I said, Marshall Goldsmith is, “What got me there,” I love that expression, “won’t get me here,” thinking, “What does a high-performer in my organization look like? What are people saying about me? Am I giving off a vibe that I take it all in my stride, I’ve got capacity for other people? And have I got time to network?”
I’m interested in your thoughts on this, but I think that’s so important for career success, and I’ve heard you talk about this. I think people who got their heads down in their job and not networking, they’re not saying, “Pete, what are you working on? That sounds really interesting. Let’s have a chat about it. Let’s grab a coffee,” they’re not just reaching out. They’ve got their heads down, and, actually, in most organizations that I work in, those aren’t the people that do well.
The people that do well have got their heads up and they’re visible and they’re picking very carefully the projects that they get involved in because they want to be seen to come up with the gamechangers. But our brains fight against this, and it can be in our DNA just to do lots of busy stuff. And then there’s all the real kind of mother hen managers, I talk about in the book, that are the ones that are…they remember everyone’s birthday, they do all the emotional labor, they’re collecting the cups after the meetings.
They’re doing other people’s work for them because they don’t want to share out across the team because they’re worried that their colleagues are too busy, all that kind of stuff. And, actually, they’re the ones that crash and burn. They simply don’t get promoted.
All right. Those are some good flags and watchouts there. Yes, I think I’ve noticed that as well as those with their heads up and around and aware, being thoughtful and selective, and networked and building relationships, do often seem to be advancing better than those who have their head down. And, I guess I’m an extrovert, but it sounds like more fun to me as well in terms of how you’re operating. So, you mentioned self-talk, are there some key mantras or I guess maybe cognitive distortions to tackle head on or how do we get our heads right?
Well, I’m a bit of a “Just don’t do it” person. I think people really have to learn to say no to stuff, and that’s a big…like, we’ve just talked about. But, actually, even if they’re not saying no to somebody else, just think, “It’s really tempting for me to read that, get involved in that, but, actually, that’s not a priority. My time is finite,” so I think that’s important.
The voice that I want my clients to hear from me, “Why am I doing that? What’s my highest and best use here?” And the way that we manage our money, that idea of best use of treasury, is the same thing, “What is the highest and best use of my time? What is it that only I can do?” It’s a great question if you’re a manager, “Out of everything I can do, what should I be doing? What is it that only I can do on my team? And that’s where I should be adding the most value because that’s my greatest contribution to the business.”
So, I think those are the kind of reflective questions that we need to go through, “And why am I doing this? If this is my hourly rate, why am I doing this? Shouldn’t somebody be doing it?” We know when people are supposed to be more strategic and not get involved in the weeds. Sometimes that’s a bit scary because they think, again, I’m talking about guilt a lot.
But that can almost feel indulgent, couldn’t it? I’m really thinking about this kind of stuff where it’s actually, “Should I just be on the phone or getting involved in this kind of bring stuff to show that I’m willing,” but, actually, businesses want people they develop to spend more time being strategic and more time thinking. So, that can be something that people really need to talk themselves into to think, “Look, this is okay. I might be right at the top of my comfort zone and really enjoying it, and it feels good.”
All right. Well, we’ve got some good tidbits here. I guess I’m curious, having worked with so many different coaching clients, can you share a couple of the approaches, tips, tools, interventions that have been just the most transformational and yet also easy?
Okay, I’m thinking about this. I love the whole towering strengths exercise which, again, is from Marshall. I’m doing PR for Marshall Goldsmith, it seems like.
Well, we had him on the show recently. He’ll appreciate the reverberation there. So, let’s talk about that.
So, he has a great exercise where you work out what your towering strengths are. So, that could be, “I’m a really hard worker,” and then what happens when that goes into overdrive, “Right. Well, actually, I’m a complete control freak. I really don’t like to leave anything not done exactly right. I don’t want any loose ends.”
So, when my towering strengths have been super hardworking, when it goes into overdrive, means that I just throw myself at everything in. I don’t stop and think, “I think hard work is going to get me through.” So, the towering strength versus overdrive exercise is really helpful because our towering strength is often what creates a kind of glass ceiling for us later on in organizations because that becomes the problem.
So, maybe, I mean, you and I work for ourselves. I know my towering strength is that I’m pretty strong, I’m very independent. When, actually, that towering strength goes into overdrive, it means that I can be a little bit slow in saying, in asking for help and getting support because I always think I can figure everything out on my own. So, that’s an exercise that I think can be really interesting for people.
And then I do love all those magic questions. If you went back into work tomorrow and everything was fantastic, what would be different? I think that tends to shift people because they say, “I’m stuck and I don’t know,” but you just kind of take them to the sunny opens and get them to look back, then they come up with ideas.
All right. Well, Zena, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?
Yeah. So, any kind of Productivity 101 is about scheduling. If it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t happen. So, I get people to pimp their calendars because our calendars are full of meetings, and full of calls but they don’t have tasks in there. So, I get them to understand their priorities, which is the P, to insert into their schedules, it’s got to be meaningful, the M in PIMP, because otherwise they’ll let somebody bump up their tasks and take priority.
And then the final P in PIMP is for prompts, which we know that people have got to have a prompt so that they don’t have…to remove the element of choice, “So, I finish doing this meeting. I’m going to put the kettle on, make a coffee, and then I’m going to go straight in and do that, write that bit of report, or whatever it is, for an hour. I’m going to set myself a timer and do it,” to remove as many options as possible.
So, I make people pimp their schedules, and actually schedule tasks in so that we feel that we have some greater sense of control because what I’ve noticed with people is they’ve got no time for actual work. They’ve just got so many meetings, so many different demands that they’re doing. They don’t have time to actually stop and think and do some deep work, so that’s going to be scheduled. So, your antelopes have got to be scheduled and also your field mice.
All right. Thank you. Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
Well, I have to say I like, “Just don’t do it.” That really works for me. And I tend to think about that first, “Why am I doing this?” Yeah, so just don’t do it. That’s the opposite of “Just do it” that we attempted to do. I think a lot of brain, just doing it, causes organizational drag, “Why are we actually doing this?”
All right. And do you have a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?
I love Dunning-Kruger. Shall we talk about Dunning-Kruger?
Let’s do it.
I love the Dunning-Kruger Effect which is a cognitive bias. So, a hapless criminal, I think in the ‘90s, went and robbed two banks with just lemon juice on his face. And he robbed one bank and then another one thinking that he’d never get caught because lemon juice is an invisible ink. And, of course, he was arrested swiftly.
So, Messrs. Dunning and Mr. Krueger, psychologists, thought, “How can somebody so hapless have so much confidence?” So, they discovered this thing called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, they did various research on students and realized that the people with the least ability had the most confidence, and vice versa. So, they call it Dunning-Kruger effect, so the less you know, the more confident you are.
And, of course, the opposite of Dunning-Kruger is that when somebody becomes an expert in something, sometimes they can have a bit of a confidence wobble because then they’re worried that, actually, they realize all the stuff that they don’t know because they’re benchmarking themselves against their peers who are other experts.
So, I see in mid-life that sometimes people have confidence wobbles, or they call it impostor syndrome, “All of a sudden, I was great at my job. And now I’m feeling a little bit hesitant and losing confidence.” So, I love telling them about Dunning-Kruger, “Actually, that’s really good because you just realized you know what you don’t know.” So, I’m a bit anti all this stuff, particularly, thanks to all kinds of stereotypes, but there’s lots of coaching for women around the impostor syndrome, “Oh, just relax about that. Don’t put yourself in those situations.”
I say to my clients, “That’s great if you’re feeling like an impostor. That shows that you’re really pushing something, you’re doing something new, but it’s also that you’re just realizing that maybe you need a little bit more preparation time to really feel confident. You need to put some more hours in but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on going.”
Oh, that’s great. And a favorite book?
Okay. So, I’m a big fan of Alan Weiss. I love his Million Dollar Consulting book, I love his Money Talks, I love his kind of raw ambition and confidence and aspiration. I think it’s great. I recommend his books frequently. So, he’s talking about this whole idea about charging for what you’re worth.
All right. And a favorite tool?
I don’t think I have a favorite tool. In fact, I’m quite nervous about people who like a software for everything because I think a whiteboard, where you map your projects with some really good Sharpies and some great Post-It notes so you’ve got visual management is a fantastic tool. So, there you go, an old-fashioned whiteboard where I can actually see it. That really works for me. I’m neurotypical. I’m much more visual than I am, so give me a whiteboard and a spreadsheet any day, though I think that works.
All right. And a favorite habit?
I’d like to come up with some great productivity habit. I’m very motivated by a great cup of coffee, so that’s my favorite reward. Rewarding myself with a good cup of coffee.
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?
“Why am I doing this?”
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
My website is ZenaEverett.com, and I send out a monthly article on productivity and career success. So, if people want that, they can either sign up for my website or just drop me an email and we’ll add them to our system.
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?
Work out what your antelopes are and make sure that your diary reflects your priorities, not other people’s.
All right. Well, Zena, it’s been a pleasure. I wish much luck and very little crazy busyness.
Thank you. You, too.