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willthomas

Kindfulness – Mindfulness gets an upgrade? Fact or Fiction?

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Since the 1960’s when Jon Kabat-Zinn first secularised meditation, developing the now well known art and science of MINDFULNESS, there has been a groundswell of interest in the practice, and the benefits of this practice.  

Throughout the last 50 years, some have loved it and some have found it too difficult.  Recent research is suggesting that some of the vital elements of the practice of cultivating stillness and quietness within, were stripped out of the mindfulness approach that Kabat-Zinn and colleagues developed.  

These missing elements relate firstly to the methods of mindfulness meditation and secondly to the dumbing down of the importance of Kindfulness and Self Compassion in meditation practice.  

In practice terms Ajahn Brahm in his extensive experience and  research as a practicing teacher of meditation points to the importance understanding 7 stages of mindfulness and ways to cultivate our minds to be able to move through these stages and experience the full benefits of quality long term mindfulness practice. These now include profound physical health benefits as well as the mental health and well being pluses that research has proven in recent years.    

Dr Kristen Neff’s research champions the importance of bringing kindness to self and to others in the way we think and the way we act.  This applies to meditation practice but also to our day to day conduct.  

She explains that the way we often talk to ourselves in our own head is far from kind.  This sets up negative emotional responses which in turn trigger negative hormonal releases akin to stress responses.  The links between stress hormones and serious diseases of the heart, pancreas and many cancers, are now well established.  We literally think ourselves into ill health.  

Dr David Hamilton’s latest book The 5 Side Effects of Kindness, shows how being kind to ourselves and to others has massive benefits for our own well being.  At the same time he argues that being kind to other people also has a ripple effect out into the world, triggering copycat acts of kindness and triggering further beneficial effects.  Embedding kindness into mindfulness is now referred to as ‘Kindfulness’.  

If you’d like to learn more about how to cultivate mindfulness and kindfulness in your life and work, and spread the happiness in your organisation, join us for the 8 week mindfulness and kindfulness course online starting in September.  Click here for more information.  

 

Anxiety Meets its Nemesis – Proven, fast, effective relief or another fad?

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With soaring rates of mental ill health amongst the population and magnified in schools, learning simple effective tools you can use yourself or teach to others is a real bonus. 

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has over 100 research papers now rating it’s effectiveness as an intervention for anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and pain management.  

It started out life being described as a a Meridian Energy Therapy, and aligned with acupuncture. Acupuncture has been recognised as an effective intervention by the NHS now for many years.  Recent scientific theories suggest that the mechanism of action of EFT is linked to a part of the brain called the Amygdala.  This almond shaped and sized organ in the centre of the human brain is responsible for managing stress responses. It houses a series of clusters of brain cells called nuclei which, through very distinct pathways process sensory information and decide upon the level of threat that stimuli outside of our bodies represent.    

This is a highly complex process that results in shuttling messages to the hind brain for the emergency responses of “fight or flight” or to the limbic system of the brain for emotional processing or to the cerebral cortex for higher order thinking.  Traumatic life events which can range from illness, accidents, power interactions such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse, shame-related experiences, early abreactions to social situations can all lead to what we now regard as the PTSD response.  The amygdala goes into a heightened state of alertness and misdirects messaging, so that what to many are normal everyday situations like social interaction, leaving the house, driving, or being in social spaces with others, can become highly anxiety-inducing.  

Many of the interventions that are shown to be effective in managing anxiety have their limitations.  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) takes time to teach a person and it has been shown to have less long term success than EFT. Traditional Talking Therapy is expensive and not as widely available as is currently needed.  Drug based therapies can be effective, but often create a dependency, or at least when the drug is withdrawn, the anxiety returns.  The percentage effectiveness of drug therapies is often outweighed by the side effects which can include severe suicidal ideation. This is particular true of younger people taking such medication.  

Although these approaches are all useful parts of the mental health support package, there is often a lag time between emergence of symptoms, diagnosis and then treatment.    

EFT presents itself as an easy to learn and effective tool which can be quickly taught to individuals or groups for self management of unhelpful emotional responses.  

The latest theories on it’s use suggest that EFT, which involves tapping specific areas of the face and body whilst a person is “running” the problem state of mind, or at least a part of that state, acts as a pattern interrupt. This means that the pathways in their mind that they engage (albeit subconsciously) that create the anxiety or other negative emotional response are halted.  There is evidence that this halting not only brings near instant relief (usually after a few rounds of this tapping process) but that it also has longer term effects in re-wiring that response.  David Feinstein, Consultant Psychologist who uses this technique extensively with patients, suggests that this process is highly effective at reprogramming the amygdala so that it climbs down from it’s hyper-vigilant state.  

Director of Vision for Learning, Will Thomas has been using EFT extensively within an integrated coaching model, for adults and young people experiencing extensive anxiety, but also stage fright and presentation concerns as well as specific fears and phobias.  

If you’d like to find out more about EFT, we are running an information webinar in September which is free to attend, and which demonstrates more of the science behind EFT and the process itself. If you think this might benefit you or those you lead, teach or support then register your interest by emailing us at:  info@visionforlearning.co.uk with EFT Webinar as your Email Subject line. 

Find anything in 5 seconds! Immediately store and retrieve anything

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Do you struggle to find notes from meetings? Or catch and retrieve interesting information, articles and ideas from all the different channels of information you absorb? Do you want to quickly retrieve anything in 5 seconds?

Evernote is the perfect solution to your information storage and retrieval.

A few years back I was struggling to deal with all of the research information I was gathering for my writing and training projects.

Paper was building up and referencing and finding what I needed was turning into a nightmare.  Then I started using Evernote.

Capture Anything Quickly with Evernote

Now it’s the way I capture and retrieve all of the following:

  • Notes on meetings
  • Speeches and teaching notes
  • Major project notes
  • Useful research sources
  • All the research I gather for book projects, and training courses
  • Household and business bills and renewals
  • Lists of films and podcasts I would like to experience
  • Photos from events
  • Handwritten meeting notes which Evernote can recognize and search as if you had typed them in!
  • Web pages
  • And much more

Evernote is packed with invaluable features

Here are some of the brilliant features:

  • Type notes directly into evernote
  • Record notes from dictations (voice to text)
  • Store photos eg of student work/trainings eg from flipcharts or books
  • Evernote recognizes text in a photo and this means the content of a photo is searchable and retrievable
  • Web clipper tool allows you to select info from a web page and save it
  • Add tags to any note you enter into Evernote so you can use the search function to almost instantly retrieve your data
  • Set up reminders
  • Generate tick lists which you can check off as you complete things
  • Create custom notebooks to keep all your records in sensible files
  • Send emails directly into an Evernote inbox so you can link emails to notes about them too

Retrieve information effortlessly and fast

Once you have set up the workbooks you wish to use and worked out how to tag the notes you enter,  then you  can use the search function to find any note almost instantly. The only limit to retrieval is how fast you can type  “SLT meeting November” or  “home insurance renewal”

Even an ardent, self-confessed technophobe,  like me, loves the simplicity and reliability of this tool.

There is a basic version, which is free, and a great start point.  Though quickly you’ll want to step up to a paid version so you can access across your devices and  at around  8 pence per day for their Plus package and 12  pence for the premium version, it’s such a reasonable upgrade for a hugely powerful tool.

Just to be clear, I don’t have any affiliation with Evernote, so this is an unrewarded plug for them. I just wanted to share an awesome productivity tool with you.

Those of you who have read the articles on Getting Things Done, could also use Evernote as the vehicle for holding your 5 notebooks for this approach, adding tick-list functions to the lists to you can tick off items when they are done.

What impact has this had on my productivity?  Well I have emptied the 8 drawers of my filing cabinets and put them on Gumtree for sale.

This is the tool we’ve been waiting for to turn ‘paperlessness’ into the promise we were made all those years ago!

When you think about the environmental impact of reducing your paper use, and storage down to an absolute minimum, this clever bit of tech is also doing its bit for the planet whilst improving your productivity at the same time.

If you’d like help with overwhelm and workload management get in touch and book your free 30 minutes coaching call now.

Remarkable and Simple Self-Organising: Brilliant productivity App

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iPhone and Android users have a treat in store if they want to move from a paper-based organization and productivity system to an electronic one.

If you haven’t already read the article Why Traditional To-Do Lists Don’t Work then this article makes even more sense if you read that first.

GTDFaster is a free and efficient solution to transferring your To-Do lists to the Getting Things Done system for high productivity working and living.  More than this,  it’s a way to free up more time for you  and your friends and family too.

The  layout of the app allows you to log your next actions, delegated tasks, all your projects, your Some Day great ideas and a place to store your references and what it calls your Not To-Do’s which are the habits and practices you want to move away from doing.

A really helpful function of this App is the  Collect Feature, which allows you to quickly record and hold any actions or notes you need to take during the day, so that even if you are on the hoof and can’t feed actions and projects into the right place you can keep them in a holding bay called Process,  until you can sort them into the system.  This means you won’t forget them.

Additionally it allows you ascribe a date and reminder to any item you add to your lists, and you can quickly access the Due date lists for the day, for the next day and anything you have missed in a past due date tab.

I’ve been using this app really successfully now for about  a year. It’s superb.  There is only one word of caution.  It offers a device-syncing function. This allows you to synchronise your lists across devices via a Cloud space.  This does work brilliantly, HOWEVER, if you are going to do this, you need to make that decision before you input any data.

This is because when you set up the synch function for the first time, any data in one of your devices, will be erased.  After this set-up phase, it works beautifully.  So here’s the drill:  set up the app on each device. Choose to synch (if that’s what you want to do). Then input your lists.

If you’d like some help with your productivity, creating more effective life or professional habits, book in for a free 30 minutes coaching review session here, with Will Thomas.

Why traditional to-do lists don’t work! Get Superior Organising Power

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Productivity expert, David Allen, says that traditional To-Do lists don’t work.  Ever noticed how you can read down your list and your mind wanders off?  We can look at a list and as we meet some items we think “I can do that” or I can fit that into the 5 minutes I have at 11.10”.  Yet some items on our lists have our minds spin into overdrive…”OMG that’s such a huge thing, I haven’t even begun to think how I will tackle that”. You start to worry about it and at the same time move on and do nothing about it. This is a classic procrastination habit.

It’s a very simple trigger that’s happening in those situations.  Your To-Do list is not in fact a To-Do of tasks, it’s a mixture of single step actions but also a lot of projects.  A project is defined as anything that requires more than one step to accomplish it.  For example,  ‘email Jenny to book appointment’ is a one stepper (assuming you have her email address). “Plan the scheme of work for Y11 for the department” is not a single step task.  This one involves marshalling resources, defining budgets, re-visiting existing planning and consultation and collaboration with the entire team, to name but a few elements.

Avoid Decision-Fatigue: Rethinking a list isn’t efficient

In a crazy-busy day at work, the constant process of thinking and rethinking the steps and priorities that a mixed-list presents tires you out and is very inefficient.

Add to this recent research from Case Western University about decision-fatigue and you’ve got a productivity black hole opening in your daily routine.  Case Western’s recent study shows that we have a finite amount of decision-making capacity in a single day. This appears to be recharged by sleep and meditation. And there are implications for the importance of  these activities during a day therefore to improve the quality and quantity of decision that are made.

Decision-fatigue is now a recognized state that we can all arrive at in intense working days.  An increase in errors occurs with extended periods of decision-making without rest. This is also exacerbated by poor sleep at night.

The constant readiness that is triggered by electronic devices which distract us if we allow them to, also feeds into the critical decision-making fatigue threshold.

Many highly successful corporate decision-makers ameliorate this threshold point and extend it by habituating many daily decisions, for example, what to wear to work each day.  Mark Zuckerberg and Barak Obama both famously have reduced their options on what to wear, so that they can save their quality decisions for the big ones each day and limit their decision-fatigue.  This so-called capsule-wardrobe system saves time as well as mental energy.

So that’s your garmenting taken care of. But what about this To-Do list?

David Allen, a leading expert in productivity, cites the importance of reducing this decision-fatigue with the use of a simple and efficient dynamic recording structure for your tasks and projects.  He couples this with a handful of habits, which add up to a really effective approach to personal professional organization.

The GTD Approach

The GTD Approach:  Getting Things Done, or GTD divides your portfolio of responsibilities into 5 key lists:

  1. Single Actions – this list sees only one stop actions added to it
  2. Waiting For – this list holds everything you have delegated to others or are awaiting responses from others
  3. Projects – this list is home to all of the areas of your responsibility that are in effect multi-step items eg the scheme of work plan
  4. Project Notes – here’s where you keep all the notes you make on the projects you’re working on, plus any action plans to do to break these projects down into their constituent actions
  5. Some Day – this is the list for that holds those great ideas you have and those goals for the future

So picture this:

You’ve now got a folder or project notepad with 5 sections in it (From personal experience if you’re going down the paper route, a folder works way better, because some sections fill up quicker than others).  Your tabs are labelled up and you’re populating each section with the relevant lists/notes.

Whilst David Allen has a tremendous following, and many of the world’s top leaders use it, I wanted to put this to the test myself.

I run three companies, I do have some help, but  a lot of the strategy for this falls to me.  I had reached some overwhelm a few years back. I was forgetting to action things.

I was also losing track of the important things I needed to do to stay strategic and plan for the future.

So I embarked on a paper-version of GTD. It’s transformed my life. I’ve now moved away from paper (yes me, the technophobe) and use the GTD app and Evernote to operate a virtually paperless approach to organizing myself and my businesses.  I teach this approach regularly to those I coach. I watch as it transforms the lives of these coachees and frees them up to spend time on what’s really important to them and their organisations.

The  system of recording I have described above needs to sit in a frame of habit. This takes a little while to build, but it is SO WORTH IT.

What are the additional elements of the GTD system?

  1. Your diary
  2. Your workflow
  3. Your daily and weekly habits

Your diary and the weekly check-in:

Any action that arrives into your life, that has a fixed time for it to be addressed eg a  meeting, a phone call, a project deadline, goes straight into your diary ( with appropriate reminder entries prior to the date if there are other related tasks)

Your diary then drives your day, and your planning

Into your diary EVERY WEEK, goes a regular entry for 20-30 minutes each week “My GTD Review Slot”.  This is where you review progress, scratch out actions you’ve achieved, and review the projects you have on the boil and then plan in the next actions you must achieve in the next working week to move them forward. These single steps go into your Next Actions list or straight into your diary in the slot they will be completed in during the next week.  You also check any “Waiting For” items and which ones might need chasing up.

This GTD Review Slot is sacrosanct and if for any reason it is hijacked, you must have a plan B slot for it.  In this way you will always review your week and reflect positively on your achievements, which is an important part of staying resilient.

You will also start the new week very clear about the priorities for the week and with a diary already planned, and your “must-do” priorities on your Next Actions list ready to action without much thought needed, because you have done that already.

Habits and work-flow

The final elements of GTD are the habits you build to keep it on track and working for you. The blog format here prevents us going into depth on this, but suffice to say, this approach needs a work flow that helps you effortlessly feed tasks, projects and the unexpected as it enters your system.

This work-flow centres around a predictable and easily learned set of practices for planning, workload, emails, conversations, meeting actions and new projects and responsibilities that come your way. It helps you deal with the curve balls in a drama-free way too.

Want to go paperless? GTD App is the way to go

For more information and support with getting GTD going in your life, contact us for to book a GTD Coaching and Mentoring Support session which can be done face to face or over the internet on our stable meetings platform.  We have a range of coaching packages to fit your budget and available time. Book a FREE 30 minutes session with Will Thomas here

Danger and Opportunity – How schools are beating the CPD budget squeeze

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Robert Hill, the government advisor on education paints a bleak picture of the future of education under the current government with his blog published last year. He draws our attention to the tensions between a whole host of issues including the nebulous mission creep which sees almost daily changes in policy, expectation and edict. 

·       remodel how we train teachers – change the rules

·       redefine professional development  – peer coaching and in-house training key

·       recast leadership of learning so that we explicitly acknowledge and encourage the role of school leaders in leading learning between schools and across the system as well as leading learning within their schools;

·       build a leadership pipeline using school groups as the basis for deploying school leaders to different leadership assignments as a way of accelerating their development – supported by leadership programmes run under the aegis of a sector-led Education Leadership Foundation;

·       use resources more productively. Partnerships and multi-academy trusts bring a huge potential for schools to improve their efficiency.

He contends that the next five years offer exciting opportunities for collaboration to make a reality of school-led improvement across the system. However, if a collaborative approach is to deliver these outcomes then school leaders will need to adopt the habits and implement the disciplines of effective partnership.  

In response to the challenges and opportunities, Vision for Learning has been running a Train the Trainer Master Certification, to raise the bar on in-house training skills and this is coupled with a  programme to license colleagues to deliver and accredit the Level 1 Introduction to Coaching course. 

Schools and individuals have already been taking up this opportunity for the past 12 months with a view to growing  CPD revenue through running relevant and innovative training for other schools and community partners.  

It’s also a cost effective way to grow your own career prospects, and get more people trained and certificated in your school in a really cost effective way. 

If you’re interested in turning your skills and knowledge into capacity and cash, for yourself or for your school click the options below;:

 Licensed Coach Trainer: 

 Train the Trainer, Master Trainer Certification:

 If you’d like to read Robert Hill’s Blog in full click here

 

 

 

 

Native American Coaching  – an innovative tool

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A Practical Coaching Tool  From  The Native American Tradition

With Native Americans in the headlines again with the Dakota Oil Pipeline dispute,  a news article triggered the inclusion of this coaching tool based on the American Indian tradition. It stems from the importance of custodianship in the Native American Tradition.  Human change and change in nature go had in hand when custodianship is your foundation.  The rich metaphorical tradition of land, elemental forces and the living world, provides ways of using nature to reflect on our own patterns, behaviours, and desires.

This coaching tool is a great one to share with young people, offering  a simple metaphor for self coaching or using in groups as a framework for discussions about improving behaviour, homework, learning skills, and more.

Equally it can be a refreshing way into solving a problem in an adult team or with a colleague (or even a challenged teen at home!).  A forthcoming assembly focus?

Here’s the graphic for  the tool and you can click the link below for a full explanation, and some further suggestions for use.

CLICK HERE for the full tool with introduction and coaching question bank for you to use with students

For more training on coaching skills, taking you and your colleagues to the next level in competency, we’ve got the Level 1 Coaching course running at South Bromsgrove High School on 7th April CLICK HERE for details.

Or step up to that next level of learning with advanced coaching and NLP skills on our accredited  advanced skills coaching course running in June.

Does your School Deserve an Award?

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Another School gets top coaching award

Saffron Waldon County High School, with its 2300 pupils and a staff of  over  350 have just landed the top school coaching accolade of Gold Coachmark.

An exceptional quality of coaching provision for staff, which provides a range of needs-based confidential coaching has landed them the first in their county to be recognized in this way.  Colleagues  can access coaching through a range of entry points.

The key features of their provision centre’s around a team of highly skilled coaches and the opportunity to request coaching for support with leadership, classroom practice, managing workload and represents a significant contribution to the continuing effectiveness of this outstanding school.  Well-being is coupled intrinsically with performance through their ground-breaking approach to professional development for staff.

Students also coach one another in a new pilot project and parents are supported with approaches to helping their children excel at school.

If you would like to know more about coach training or Coachmark try these links:

Could you be the next Coachmark Awarded School?  CLICK HERE TO SEE

For course info CLICK HERE 

 

 

 

Is it time to write your book?

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You’ve an expertise or an idea, you’ve been developing it for a good few years, you are by definition an expert in that area, or maybe you just feel you’ve something useful to share.

Perhaps you’re reaching that point in your life where you want to capture what you’ve learned and make it available to others.

If this is true of you, then writing a non-fiction book could be one of the most powerful and lasting ways to communicate your ideas AND leave your lasting legacy.

It’s much much easier than  you think to write and get your book published.

write your book 900 I know’ I’ve written 14 books with 4 major publishers and also self published one too.  With over 15 years experience working with OU Press, Bloomsbury, Pocketbooks and Routledge, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing solo and in teams and how to get a message across that’s earned me awards and best-seller accolades.  It’s also been pivotal to my marketing strategy for my training and coaching business.

For some time now I’ve been sharing the secrets of getting what’s in your head onto a page in a coherent way, with aspiring non-fiction authors.

This summer, I’m offering the chance to get the book that’s inside you on to the page and towards publication.

I’m running a 2 day live workshop in Worcestershire for just 6 people on 23/24 August PLUS access to my online 12 Week Author Follow Up Programme.

Work with me on your book ideas during a two day intensive and then complete the writing of your book within twelve weeks, and get it published with my support.

The LIVE programme:

Have absolute clarity on the purposes of your book and your audience

How to get the ideas in your head onto a page

How to find your writer’s voice

How to structure your ideas and coherently present your ideas

How to get writing and overcome writer’s block

How to decide on your publishing route

Go away from the Live programme with clarity and having begin your writing AND with access to a twelve week support process online.

There are only 6 places on this programme. It’s at a sizzler of a summer price:

£499 + vat including two days live training, 12 week online follow up programme, 3 follow up webinars, and lunch and refreshments included in your live training.

When the places are gone they are gone.  To reserve your place now, email me personally at willthomas@visionforleanring.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are STRIDE and GROW redundant coaching models?

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For many years now, the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) and STRIDE (Strengths, Target, Real Situation, Ideas, Decision and Evaluate) have been standard frameworks for coaching conversations.

They’ve been championed and vilified by critics, but often misunderstood.  In both cases they were never meant as rigid sequential steps in a coaching conversation, but instead a menu of elements which can be visited in different orders and to varying degrees.

STRIDE GROW 900

Both approaches are based on a solutions-focussed paradigm of defining a positive outcome which in itself reframes a problematic or unclear situation and building towards a range of options, by challenging limiting beliefs and focusing in on the strengths and talents of the person being coached.

There are other models too!

Robert Dilts’ Logical levels is a beautiful alternative framework and provides a layered approach to exploring issues.  It lends itself much more to an intuitive exploration of a person’s situation and is often branded as an Intuitive  Change Framework. Arguably, a truly intuitive process, should lack a framework at all! However, if we accept this loose structure as part of an intuitive approach to coaching, it provides some interesting levels of enquiry.

Here is an outline of Dilt’s Levels and some questions that accompany it.

You can use it sequentially beginning at the top or the bottom or more as a checklist of options.

Dilts argues that in line with Einstein’s notion that a problem cannot be solved at the same level at which it was created, this model provides levels of questioning that will loosen particular mindsets and through questioning, offer fresh perspectives on the circumstance being explored.

CLICK HERE

STRIDE and GROW are not redundant, they are just different approaches to changing perspectives on a situation.

If you want a process-based framework, they are great ways of structuring a session. You can also include Dilts’ questioning within STRIDE or GROW.  Who says you have to use one model?  Who says you have to use any model?  Over to you.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. To what extent are you using some or all aspects of Dilts’ model in your coaching and support practice?
  2. Controversially for some, Dilts substitutes the “Purpose” level for the “Spiritual” level in some versions of his model. To what extent does spiritual belief and practice have a place in the coaching of professionals for you? Is this the same for everyone you coach?
  3. What are you learning from your thinking on Dilt’s logical levels model? What actions arise from this thinking?

For more information on  our next Accredited Advanced Coaching Skills course

http://go.visionforlearning.co.uk/advanced-coaching-skills/