Do you struggle to figure out how you can make your greatest impact on the world? Enter Clare Josa, mentor to Passionate World Changers to help free them of their imposter syndrome holding them back so they can make a real difference. She’s the bestselling author of 5 life-changing books, including the favorite Dare to Dream Bigger.
We had an incredibly inspiring conversation with Clare to get her thoughts on productivity and how classic time management techniques can fall apart. We were lucky to find out why these antiquated methods actually make things worse, and how you can amp up your productivity, power through obstacles, and make actual progress towards your goals.
What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
I love this question, because for me they’re the most important 90 minutes. So I start usually with some meditation and I might do some gratitude practice, and I’ll often do some EFT tapping. EFT is basically you tap on the body’s meridian points to clear out blocks. So I’ll often start my day with that after meditation and just set the intention of, “Okay. I’m clearing a path for what I need to create today,” and then I have a real treat – my husband brings me a cup of tea in bed. So this is all before I get up.
Can you walk us through your gratitude practice?
I’ve actually written a book on gratitude called A Year Full of Gratitude, and it’s got 26 fortnightly exercises in it to take you through making gratitude part of your daily life. But my favorite one that reprograms your nervous system is a gratitude spiral. I just think of something really specific that I feel grateful for. Not that general, “I’m happy that I’m alive.” It has to be something tiny and specific so that your brain can connect with it, and then you allow that feeling to grow in your body. And as you feel the feeling grow, there will come a point where it just starts to tail off a bit, and then you think of the next one. You let that grow, and just before it tails off you think of the next one.
Do it for 60 seconds – it reprograms the neurology in your brain to retrain your inner critic to become your biggest cheerleader, it floods your system with endorphins, and it gets your nervous system back into balance and ready to face the day. You can use it as an emergency reset any time of day.
What’s one of your number one productivity tips?
I used to be an engineer, and I taught my first time-management workshop when I was 24 to the managing directors of the company I used to work for. And 20 years on I realized that actually I knew nothing. There’s some useful stuff in time management like handle everything only once, make sure you prioritize etcetera. But I’ve realized that it’s actually fixing the sentiment not the root cause. When we feel that we don’t have enough time, it’s because there’s something deep inside that’s out of connection. You know? So ask the bigger picture question – does this move me towards or away from my big vision goal?
So I use that maybe 20 times a day when distractions come up. “Does this move me towards or away from my big vision goal right now? It moves me away from it. Do I want to spend my time on that? No.” And you can ask yourself great self-mentoring question is, “Am I using this distraction to avoid something?” Because often the answer is yes because there’s something on your to-do list that maybe is a bit scary, maybe it’s stretching a comfort zone. So we fill our time with distractions and procrastination without realizing it so that we are too busy to the action that will actually make a difference.
What’s your definition of productivity?
So I started by defining what it’s not for me. And it is not getting more done in less time. For me, it’s about taking the inspired actions that create breakthroughs and not burnout. B-U-S-Y-N-E-S-S, as a means to hide our talents and our mission because we’re scared. We’ve got imposter syndrome. We’ve got limiting beliefs. All of that stuff comes out to play. So what we do is we cram too much stuff into our time. And then we use time management techniques to try and get even more done in that time. But actually the vast majority of what we’re doing isn’t moving us towards that goal. It’s not moving us towards our big vision. It’s not adding to the difference that we are uniquely here to make in the world. It’s busyness. So if you try and get more done, but it’s not the stuff that’s going to create breakthroughs, you’re just going to end up burnt out and exhausted and you won’t achieve the end goal.
How often do you check your inbox?
Twice a day, and never on weekends, and it gets me into so much trouble. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who want an instant response on a Sunday. And I think it’s an epidemic for us. When we look at the stress levels in the working population, the number of people who are still really working at weekends, they’re not taking that downtime, they’re not connecting with their loved ones, they’re not topping up their batteries, we can get addicted to being busy. So we check our email far too often, and we become a slave to it. And I feel we need a big mission to retrain the world actually it’s okay not to have an instant response to an email.
You know actually, I wanted to say one of the reasons I think SaneBox is absolutely fantastic is that it’s the whole premise behind what you do. It’s that we need to learn to take that control over our inboxes and to choose how we spend our time on things like our inboxes rather than responding to the email that’s shouting the loudest, respond to the one that’s going to make the biggest difference. And I think what you guys do, enabling people to do that is so important and so valuable.
What tools do you use?
I love things like Evernote and I keep my to-do list in there because then it’s very immediate and it’s synced on all of my devices. I also use it to capture article ideas. Penultimate is one of my favorite tools on my iPad. As a writer, handwriting is so important to me. But I lost my bits of paper everywhere. So I can now sync my Penultimate notes from my iPad to Evernote and it can somehow search my handwriting, which is just incredible. So Evernote actually forms the crux of my planning with my business. I can share notes with other people, and it’s the way it syncs so effortlessly. I would be lost without it.
What have you become better at saying no to?
I’ve really enjoyed this question because so many of us are scared to say no. We feel that we want to make a difference in the world, so we need to say yes to everybody. We need to help everybody. And for me, when I really cracked the whole big vision thing, is what is the difference I am here to make. It’s actually really easy to say no to things that don’t move me towards that. Yeah. And I choose to think of time as being like a currency that I’m spending, and I have to spend it consciously. So if I say yes to something that didn’t fit with my big vision, I need to be prepared to let something else go. But one of the really cool things I’m now good at saying no to is, “Please could I pick your brain? Could I just come around for coffee and pick your brain?” I’ve gotten much better at boundaries on that because that used to be a huge time thief for me.
Do you have a template that you apply to people when you say no to them?
I try and stand in their shoes first to understand what might be motivating them. Because some people want your help because they don’t want to have to do it themselves, yeah. And they see you as removing the effort from them. But some people are genuinely stuck, and I will always try and do something to help them. I mean there are over 2,000 articles on my website that help you on your whole journey as a entrepreneur and passionate world changer. So I would try and get them started on a podcast episode or a video, or an article. So I am helping them, but it doesn’t immediately become a one to one thing.
What’s one ingredient to work/life balance?
Remembering why you’re doing it. Okay. It’s absolutely key. Why are you running your business? Why do you have your career? For me, yes I want to make a difference in the world, but it’s about my family. Yeah. I really rarely miss the kids’ sport matches. Yeah, I arrange my entire year’s business planning around their school calendar so I know they come first. So I will actually schedule my launches around when I know that I’m going to have the most childcare. I will not schedule launches at times when I know they’re going to need mom to be more present. So it’s always remembering, “If this were my last day, how would I spend my time today?” And nine times out of ten my to-do list does not win.
What are some things you think are necessary to get you from initial idea to finished project?
Well in my engineering past, I actually specialized in lean manufacturing. So Kaizen, and Japanese manufacturing techniques, and whether I am launching an online course on something like imposter syndrome, or whether I’m writing a non-fiction book or I’m writing a novel, I have to have that flow. And there’s something I studied in Germany that they call the red thread, and that red thread has to go through the entire plan. It guides you through. And if anything doesn’t fit with that red thread, it does not belong in that project. Then my inner engineer takes out all of the fluff, all the bits that aren’t necessary, and I just go through step by step by step.
When you’ve got the framework, you can set yourself free to be really really creative. You can channel that creativity, and you feel that sense of achievement as you get through each of those key steps.
When you lose focus how do you regain it? If helpful, what questions kind of do you ask yourself?
I do not stay sitting at my desk. If I’ve lost focus it might mean my energy levels are low. It might mean that I’m trying to do a creative project at a time when my brain wants to do admin. So I will go and do something like dance to some music like a crazy lady in the kitchen with a cup of tea. Or I might go and do some yoga. There’s some fantastic yoga poses that help you to release particularly irritability, and frustration. So that gets me grounded. But then I ask myself the same question we covered which is what is that doing for me. What is that lack of focus doing for me? What is it I get to avoid by not having focus right now?
Psychologists call it secondary gain. What is that crazy behavior doing for me? By dealing with that unmet need in a more healthy way, it means I no longer need to block my focus and creativity. And it might be that there’s something on my to-do list that doesn’t belong to me and I need to delegate it or ditch it. Or it might be it’s something that’s slightly scary outside of a comfort zone, in which case I need to deal with that fear, so I’ll do something like a round of EFT.
What bad advice do you hear often?
Advice is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. But there’s one that breaks my heart actually – particularly with entrepreneurs, there’s a difference between mastery and being able to teach someone else to become a master. I see so many entrepreneurs spending multiple four figures on programs that promise to make them immensely successful in a few days. Then, when it doesn’t work for them, they blame themselves and they give up on their dreams. Whereas all it was is the person knew what their process was, but maybe they weren’t aware of that inner work they’d also done that allowed the process to work. Maybe they didn’t realize the limiting beliefs they’d cleared. Maybe they didn’t realize that they’d dealt with imposter syndrome.
What’s the most worthwhile investment in time, money, and energy that you’ve made?
Well I used to think it was becoming an NLP trainer back in 2003 because that got me moving from engineering to market research, and then into the work I now do helping people. But actually I think it was becoming meditation teacher back in 2008 because I went and spent two years studying part-time to become a meditation teacher. It’s got me writing two books on mindfulness and meditation. It taught me how to tame my monkey mind in a way that the psychological approaches just hadn’t achieved before. It helped me to create tools that mean I can help entrepreneurs to ditch imposter syndrome once and for all without sticky plasters. It helped me to able to connect with my inner peace. It helped me to see the difference between my mind stories and the truth that’s actually out there and how sometimes we actually create the pain through the stories we’re telling ourselves. And it’s also where I met my husband. So that was quite a big bonus.
For more on Clare and her work:
- Clare Josa’s website: www.clarejosa.com
- Follow Clare on Twitter @clare_josa
- Clare’s book for entrepreneurs: Dare to Dream Bigger
- Clare’s podcasts: Dare to Dream Bigger & Soul Nudge