Ep. 53 – Alison Coward – Systems for Collaboration
In episode 53, Alison Coward of Bracket shares how collaboration and culture play a role in creating cadence for teams within an organisation, and how she approaches intentional productivity in her own workflow.
Show Notes Links:
Full episode transcript below, and links to find out more about Alison Coward and her work.
- Website: BracketCreative.co.uk
- LinkedIn: AlisonCoward
- New Book: Workshop Culture – A Guide to Building Teams That Thrive
- Digital Coworking App – Groove.ooo
Transcript – Episode 53 – Alison Coward
Published: 03 November 2023
Hi, and welcome to Creating Cadence, a podcast for life and work in motion.
I’m your host Mich Bondesio, a freelance writer, coach consultant, and solo entrepreneur. I’m also the author of The Cadence Effect.
I help high achievers stuck on the toxic treadmill of overwork to transform how they approach life, work and business. So they can activate more of their potential and perform better in every part of their life at a cadence that’s more suitable to them. Despite this fast-paced world we live in.
This is episode 53, the ninth episode of season eight, published in early November, 2023, although the interview part of this episode was recorded in late September.
Before we get to the interview section, here’s some news and views from me.
So, if you listened to last week’s episode, which included a lovely interview with Pat Williams, I’m currently knee deep in packing for my house move. I’m so excited, but I’m also feeling a tad overwhelmed by the amount of boxes I think I might need.
This has come as a bit of a shock to me though, because even though I’m endeavoring to lead a minimalist life, I’ve realized I still have too much stuff. So I’m in the process of sorting out what I want to keep and what I want to recycle, donate, sell, or repurpose, to ensure that I don’t bring a necessary crap into my new space.
With the environment and climate in the state that it’s in, this process is also reminding me that I need to be even more conscious of my consumption in the future.
We, as a society, have become accustomed to buying things, not because we actually need them, but because they make us feel something that we think is missing. They often fulfill an emotional need that is not being met in a way that perhaps it should be.
Often the stuff that we buy fills a hole caused by issues such as poor self esteem. Or low self image. Or unhealthy peer pressure. Or a fear of missing out. Or status-driven goals instead of purpose-driven ones, just to name a few examples.
But what we often then find after we make the purchase is that the dopamine hit lasts an hour, or a day or two, or a few weeks, and then we’re back to craving a way to fill that hole again. And buying more stuff is often the easiest way to do that. In doing so we clutter up our lives, our homes, our kitchen cupboards, and our wardrobes. All with stuff.
And then we throw it away or we give it away and we start again. With little thought to what actually happens to that stuff. That stuff ends up in a landfill or it’s shipped to some African country, where they don’t have the means to deal with our waste properly. So it’s a much bigger problem than you may realize. And it’s why I’m trying to be really intentional about what I do with my stuff as I pack and move.
Now, this may not be immediately obvious, but being more intentional with our spending choices and our hoarding habits, so we can become less addicted to buying stuff, actually ties in with being more intentional with our productivity, too.
The reason for this is because clutter of any kind causes stress. And ongoing stress of any kind affects our ability to work well. I write about this phenomenon in my book, The Cadence Effect, and I’m trying to practice living in a better way because all of my choices impact on my environment in some way.
It does take a mindset shift to move away from filling our lives with stuff. It requires intentional thought and practice and experimentation. It requires us to be willing to forge our own path instead of accepting a consumerist status quo.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with towing the party line, when it comes to shopping. If you’re ready to change your habits and behaviors that affect the way you live and work and consume. Then you might benefit from joining my upcoming coaching programme.
In early 2024, I’m launching a new coaching and accountability programme geared to help overworked high-achievers transform how you work and how you live. The aim is to help you become more purposeful with your productivity and more intentional about supporting your wellbeing. So you can craft a more conscious and meaningful way of life that is in harmony with your environment.
I’m announcing more about this in my next Cadence newsletter, which is due out in early November. And spaces will be limited. So if you want to be the first to find out more about special offers and early bird pricing, then head to creatingcadence.co/subscribe to sign up. You’ll also get a free cadence canvas worksheet for your trouble.
This upcoming programme is tied to the topics covered in my recently published book, The Cadence Effect.
If you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s a quick review from Kelly Berry, who wrote the following on Amazon:
“Author Mich Bondesio isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to her burnout. But we all benefit from the lessons that she learned as she turned her life around and created the cadence she needed to become the success that she is today.
I love her concept of intentional productivity and have altered my own work habits based on what I learned in the book. I am better in tune with when I’m at my most productive (afternoons for me!). And I recognize that my days start better with a routine of yoga, tea, reading and avoiding emails.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who feels the pressure to perform, and isn’t sure how to best address it. Whether you work for yourself or for an employer, we can all benefit from Mich’s experience and her perspective. And shift our focus from the unattainable work-life balance, to a more realistic cadence effect”.
Well, what a cool review. Thanks so much, Kelly, for your thoughtful consideration of the power of the cadence effect. If you didn’t make the connection, aside from being a guest on the season of the podcast, Kelly Berry was also one of my beta readers for the book. She has embraced the concept of creating cadence wholeheartedly in her own life, which has been so encouraging to see.
If you’re a listener and you want to find out more about the book, then head to TheCadenceEffect.com.
Incidentally, this book would make a great Christmas gift for the person in your life, who’s looking to find better ways to manage their stress and their workload, so they can work with more purpose and find more meaning in their days.
In the next cadence newsletter, I’ll also be announcing Christmas discounts for my book.
So if you aren’t signed up for the newsletter yet, head to creatingcadence.co/subscribe, so you can get all the details and how to take advantage of that discount.
So with the promo stuff out the way it’s now onto the interview section of this episode, where I chat with Alison Coward of Bracket Creative.
Alison Coward is the founder of Bracket, a consultancy that partners with ambitious forward-thinking companies to help them build high performing and collaborative team cultures.
She is a strategist workshop, facilitator, coach trainer, keynote speaker, and author of “A Pocket Guide to Effective Workshops”. She also has a new upcoming book due out in November called “Workshop Culture: A Guide to Building Teams That Thrive”.
Alison’s clients include Google, Meta, and the World Federation of Advertisers, as well as Wellcome and the V&A. With 20 years experience of working in, leading, and facilitating creative teams, Alison is passionate about finding the balance between creativity, productivity, and collaboration, so that teams can thrive and do their best work together.
I really enjoyed this conversation with Alison learning more about how she helps creative teams to collaborate more effectively.
In this episode, we cover:
- The connection between culture and effective team communication and collaboration.
- How our morning routines can evolve to suit current needs, while still supporting a healthy work-life cadence.
- And, we also geek out about how to create a supportive weekly workflow cadence.
- And Alison shares some great examples, including an online coworking app that she uses to help with her writing.
And do stick around at the end of the interview, as I’ll also share my take on some thoughts and ideas that came from this conversation with Alison. So if you’re ready, let’s dive in.
Welcome Alison. It’s lovely to have you join me on the show.
Thanks for having me.
So a bit of context for my audience. We don’t actually know each other. This is the first time that we are meeting, but I’ve been following your work and the posts that you shared on LinkedIn for quite a while now. And the reason I’ve done that is because there is a definite synergy between your approach to the work that you do and the message that I’m sharing about creating cadence.
In particular, you focus on a multi-dimensional approach to creating positive collaborative cultures for high performing teams. And culture also happens to be one of the keystones of my cadence canvas framework and methodology, which I use with my coaching. And I tend to work with individual business people and small teams, whereas I think your experience lies more with large organizations and corporate teams.
And as you’ve mentioned on your website though, key elements of high performing teams, irrespective of how big they are or small they are, is that it’s around mindset and habits that they regularly reflect on their work, review their habits, and design new ways of working. And that connects with the premise behind my book, the Cadence Effect, which is about designing and developing intentionally productive habits so that we can activate more of our potential and find better ways of working.
And then I found out that you are publishing a book very soon called “Workshop Culture: A Guide to Building Teams That Thrive”. And I thought it would be really great to have you on the show to hear more about your perspective on the connection between positive cultures and the concept of creating cadence and how workshops might tie in with helping teams to do that.
Wonderful. Great introduction. Thank you.
It’s my pleasure. So let’s start with work. You are a team culture coach and consultant, and the founder of Bracket, which is your consultancy.
Tell us a little bit more about what you do, who you work with, and why.
Okay. As you said, we’re, we’re a team culture consultancy and we focus on helping teams work better together. And I guess the things that underpin what we do, and my particular interest is finding a good balance between team creativity and team productivity and collaboration.
So how do teams do great work, create great ideas, and actually put them into practice and deliver to a high standard together and all of the elements around that. So we do workshops and coaching and training, talks, create content all around helping teams to become more aware of what they need to do to create the environment for them all to thrive individually and as a team.
Fantastic. And I will link to your website in our show notes ’cause you’ve got a really fantastic website. I love the look of it, but also the message is really clear in terms of how you help people.
So how long has your company been running and what types of clients are you working with?
Gosh, it will be 14 years in about a month actually. Yeah. So Bracket’s been going for a long time. It has gone through lots of iterations and I won’t go into that story ’cause it is a long, story story. Um, but it’s always been focused on collaboration. And particularly collaboration within the knowledge economy and within the creative sector, because that’s my background and that’s my interest.
So we do work with all types of companies and organizations. But again, because of my background, we tend to gravitate, or the types of clients tend to gravitate towards us, are often within the creative industries, within the tech and digital sectors, and media as well. So again, those kind of knowledge economies.
That’s fascinating. There’s definitely overlap with what I do as well, and there’s such a need for it with people who work in creative and digital industries for sure.
So, how do you think this concept of cadence, which is the premise of what I do around my work, I think it ties in very well with what you do.
How do you see it applying in the context of the work that you do to support and help your clients? How do you think it helps them to support their wellbeing and productivity better?
Yeah, I mean, I did say that I wasn’t gonna go into the iteration of Bracket, but I think it might be worth saying a little bit here.
I’ve always been focused or fascinated by the concept of collaboration and how do we do that effectively? And in the early stages of Bracket, I stumbled across the idea of workshops, just because I was bringing people together that had different levels of expertise. And when I was bringing them together, it made sense to run workshops or facilitate workshops even though
that’s not what I thought or knew that I was doing at the time. I didn’t realize that I was a facilitator. And so, I actually started offering these facilitated workshops to teams within larger companies. And again, really passionate about the power of these workshops. But there was something that was kind of frustrating me a little bit when I was doing these one-off workshops.
It was like, you know, we’d come together and we’d have a really great time. Produce really brilliant ideas. Everyone would be really engaged and motivated and energized, and then they’d go back to their day-to-day work and all of that energy would almost just disappear. So I started thinking, well, you know, yes, workshops are a powerful tool.
But they are a tool. It’s not just the workshop itself, it’s what the team put in place after that. And that’s when I started to get a bit more interested in what happens after a workshop and how can we start to bring more of the principles that we’re seeing in workshops through great facilitation into our everyday work.
And part of that is running more regular workshops, like looking at things like our meetings, which you know, can, I don’t think all teams often see it this way, but can be a way of creating cadence in a way that a team communicates. So looking at how teams meet and the types of conversations that they have, how they run those meetings as well, and being more intentional about what they do in those meetings to create that cadence of how they work together.
So that’s the kind of quick story of sort of, you know how I help teams. I mean, there’s lots more sort of around rhythms and rituals and ways of working, but again, you know, because my background is in the creative industries, fascinated about collaboration. Fell upon the concept of workshops and seeing how that format really supports collaboration.
A lot of what we do at Bracket is through the lens of creating this kind of rhythm of workshops and meetings where teams come together and communicate effectively.
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing.
So let’s talk a little bit about this new book that’s coming out. Why did you write it, and how do you think it’s gonna help people?
Oh, um, why did I write it? Well, you’ve been through the process of writing a book. Actually, I don’t know why I decided to write. I haven’t gone through the process. It’s not something that I would potentially repeat any time very soon. But really what I was seeing with Teams is that culture is vital. The way that a team works together is absolutely vital. And whilst I think most teams and their leaders will agree that culture is important, actually, it’s also such a broad area. And where do we start with it?
It’s, you know, we could look at communication, we could look at trust, we could look at psychological safety, we could look at productivity.
There’s so many broad areas and I think through my work at Bracket, I mean, I’ve been going 14 years now through facilitating workshops, working with teams, seeing also my own research and bringing in research and academic references from lots of different places. I started to build a framework around what makes a high performing team. Heavily influenced, again, by what I see happening in workshops, and I wanted to put it out there into the world.
I want to make the process of approaching team culture, creating high performing teams, encouraging effective collaboration, more accessible to a wider group of people. Partly because, you know, particularly in the knowledge economy, we can’t get work done, without collaboration. And if collaboration is such a big part of our working lives, if we address collaboration and make that better, then it has an impact on how we feel about work.
Absolutely. That’s really well said, and I think what’s helpful about the notion of creating this book as well, is that very often these decisions to hold the workshops or to work on culture come from a top down decision making perspective. Whereas anybody can read your book. Anybody can go to their team and say, I think this would help us.
I think we should be doing this, you know.
Absolutely, and that’s, for me, that is a key message. That’s I think a concept that I struggled with when I was writing the book. Who is it for? And yes, you know, it’s written with the view that a team leader will pick this up. At the same time, you know, a team leader is largely responsible for creating the environment and culture where their team can thrive.
Yet, at the same time, it’s not solely their responsibility. It is also up to the team members to create that level of self-awareness, to think about how they’re contributing to culture and actually for leaders to be able to create that environment where it is all about us contributing to the culture, then team members can actually step up and say, “Ooh look, this isn’t working. Let’s look at how to make our meetings better, and let’s look at the way we communicate more effectively.
Talking about how we work and suggesting rhythms and rituals and ways of working that they can implement.
Hmm. Fantastic. The tagline for the book is what if every day at work felt like your team’s most productive away day? Which I love. And it’s coming out on the 21st of November. Is that right? So we’ll share a link to the presale page on the show notes, and that’s very exciting.
Congratulations to you on writing the book.
Let’s talk a little bit more about you now, Alison, because creating cadence is about more than just how we work. It’s also about how we create momentum across our days. In ways that support not just our productivity, but also our wellbeing and creativity.
So where do you find yourself in your life at the moment, and how is that affecting or supporting you? What are the good things and the challenges that you’re currently experiencing?
Juicy question. So where I am in my life right now obviously is Bracket and the book has been a big feature of my life, definitely for this year. And getting the message out there of what we do at Bracket. And alongside that, you know, growing the business, getting the message out there.
There is, you’ll know this when you run your own business, that idea of making sure that you don’t let the other areas of your life fall to the wayside. And that’s been a big feature for me this year, sort of bring in, I think over the last few years, work has been definitely kind of the centre of everything.
And now I’m trying to sort of, I wouldn’t say, I think I’m careful of using the word balance. ’cause I know that’s something in your book that you kind of challenge us against, but it is like, how do I create more of a presence of those other areas in my life so that it’s not so much so dominated by work and business.
Yes, I agree. As a solo entrepreneur, yes, work does dominate your time and life, but it’s the other elements of your life that also help to feed your creativity and support wellbeing.
So, talk us a little bit through how your day runs. Do you have a morning routine of any specific note? And, you know, what are your cycles of productivity during a typical day?
Like, when are you more productive or least? Do you do deep work in the morning, for example, you know, what does your day entail?
Mm. Well, I think, to talk about my day, I kind of need to rewind a little bit and talk about my week. Because I think, you know when you invited me as a guest on the podcast, I was quite excited about talking, about what I’ve set up, the systems that I’ve set up to support me, particularly in times of overwhelm.
And, I have this ritual that I do at the start of every week, and I call it my weekly meeting. And I started doing my weekly meeting, probably, oh it’s coming up to six years now, to think I did the first one in 2017. And what I do in that weekly meeting is I sit down and I ask myself three sets of questions.
What did I do? What happened? So I reflect on the week before. How am I feeling and what did I learn? And what am I thinking about? And I kind of journal around those three questions.
And then the next part of my weekly meeting is looking forward to the week and creating a master list of all the things that I need to do that week.
So I have various kind of, I’ve got a Google spreadsheet where I list all the things that I need to do, and that’s kind of divided into the departments of my business or the different areas of my business. I also have a Notion that I work for where that’s kind of all the client projects.
So I go through all of those. I’m like, okay, what do I need to do this week? And then I sit down and I plan out my planner. So I look at all the appointments that I have, and I put them into, I have a hard copy planner, put them into my planner. And then I go back to my to-do list and I’m like, okay, so these are the days that I have space, these are the days that I’ve got that kind of thing going on, and I’ll allocate my tasks to each day.
So before I start my week, I kind of have a guide of what I wanna do in each day. And each day, I wouldn’t say I stick strictly to this, but Mondays and Fridays I try to keep relatively light on meetings. So at least definitely for Monday morning I won’t have any external meetings, and also Friday afternoon as well.
Fridays are usually allocated to kind of more, I guess, finance, operations, admin, and strategic thinking. Mondays are a bit more sort of content focused. Tuesdays are a bit more sort of marketing, sort of reaching out, networking, connecting days and Wednesday and Thursday are often sort of client work.
So that’s kind of how I think about my day. So each day is definitely very different.
Going into a micro level, looking at my days, I mean, as we’re speaking, I’m kind of thinking that the morning routine that I used to have has evolved and I used to kind of get up and do morning pages. I used to meditate.
Now those two things don’t happen, but I do get up. The first thing that I do is feed my cats. And then I get ready. I always listen to a podcast or a book when I’m getting ready and then I start my day. And I guess that’s kind of about it in terms of morning meetings.
Always have breakfast as well and then get down to start my day. And my day starts by me opening my planner and seeing what I’ve decided for myself to do for that day. And I think one of the things that I really value in planning out my week before is that decision in the morning to decide what I’m doing.
I don’t have to do that anymore ’cause “past me” has already decided what future me is gonna do.
I love all of that. You’re a person after my own heart. Um, I follow a very similar structure, but I use a paper-based kind of planner. For me, it’s a bullet journal and then I time block and allocate per week. And my week structure is quite similar to yours as well, and what’s fantastic about that is you know, when you work for yourself, you have the opportunity to design how your week is going to go.
You can choose, it doesn’t have to be firefighting reactivity every single day. There may be some days where it’s more like that, but you are very consciously and intentionally deciding how you want your week to pan out. And as you say, you are saving your cognitive load, and you know, preserving your cognitive load by having made those decisions in advance.
So thank you so much for explaining that structure. And your morning routine is perfect. What you’re doing is you’re creating space for yourself with your cats, connecting and learning before you dive into offering, opening yourself up to what’s happening in the world.
So that’s the important thing as well as that morning routines are very personal um, they’re flexible and they will adapt and adjust throughout our .
What I would love to do, so I’m someone that likes to tweak a lot, my routine. So one of the things that I would like to do, and I experiment as well. For example, writing, if I’m gonna do any kind of writing, it’s best for me to do that in the morning first thing before I I do anything else.
I would like to introduce more of that. Another thing that I did find, especially when I was writing my book, was I used a digital coworking app that really helped me.
So again, that would be, you know, sort of towards the end of the day when I was really deep in writing, I knew that maybe from five to seven I would do you mind me saying the coworking app?
No. Please share.
Groove. So between five and seven or maybe later, then I would get on Groove and I’d use Groove to write.
Fantastic. Well, I’ll definitely share a link to that in the show notes. I always like sharing resources for people to experiment with. And yeah, I think that that’s a great point you’ve made about identifying where you may need further support during your day to help you stay more focused.
We are kind of getting towards the end of things now, but two more questions for you.
In a few sentences or words, what does the concept of creating cadence mean to you in your life based on what you’ve shared with me so far? Why does it resonate?
Yeah, I do. You know, I love this word cadence, and I think I actually only really came across the word cadence probably sort of a few years ago, maybe about six years ago when I started sort of thinking about the concept of rituals and routines for teams.
But I think the word creating really resonates this idea of, you know, you having agency and control over the way that you work. But that has to come from a deep level of self-awareness. It’s almost like you kind of have to observe yourself first and know, well, what’s the default? What am I doing without thinking about it and actually is that serving me? And what’s working? What is actually battling against me being my most productive or energetic self?
And where might I be able to design interventions, rituals, routines, ways of being, ways of doing to really support what I want to achieve and how I want to be. So I love this idea of creating cadence. I think that it’s not something that lots of people are necessarily aware of.
And I think, again, you’ll see this in your work when perhaps when you do your coaching, one of the most powerful things that I see happening with a team when I’m working with a team is this idea that they can be intentional about the way they work together. And it’s almost like a light bulb goes off.
It’s like I don’t have to just work by default. I don’t have to just have to take things and kind of react all the time.
I can actually, you know, get ahead a little bit, but from that self-awareness through design, and I love the idea of using design in its kind of purest form to kind of create. Yeah, design, my work design, my day’s design, how I interact with people. Yeah. I love the concept of creating cadence.
Well, thanks for sharing that and your perception of that and how it resonates. And I think what underpins everything you’ve said is, you know, approaching things with a mindset of curiosity and experimentation at all times. You know, that helps us to be open to, to learning from it, and adapting.
The other thing that I wanna say on that as well, because this is something that sort of came up for me this morning as I was thinking through this podcast and some of your questions. And I think it also relates to the routine that we both do weekly, is this idea of being kind to your future self.
You know, what can you do now, right now in the present. So thinking about the future, at the expense of being present, but what can you do now in the present that your future self is gonna look back and say, “Oh, thanks Alison, or, thanks Mich, you know, for, for setting that for me”.
So I think that’s something to do with sort of creating cadence, these intentional ways of making your future life a little bit easier.
Absolutely, and in kind of reviewing where you’ve been, and where you are, and where you’re going, actually helps in terms of goal setting and helping you achieve those goals because you’re constantly adjusting and pivoting to stay on track, based on, you know, thinking about what your future self might need.
So I really love the way you’ve put that. Thank you.
So, any final words of advice or wisdom or key learnings based on your experience as a business owner of 14 years. Or, you know, from a personal perspective or from working with teams in your work environments?
I mean, I think this is a message that I talk about in my book, in my work. And I know that it’s a message in your book as well, which is around starting small. And kind of taking small steps because, you know, if you are overwhelmed already trying to completely overhaul everything and bringing lots of new routines and rituals is also gonna be overwhelming and that’s gonna cause more frustration and burnout.
And I think, I really know that when I’m trying to start a new habit or start a new way of working, if I go full pelt straight away, then within a week it’s just gone and I’m sort of fed up a bit. So taking those small steps has really helped me. And then building things up over time, because you want these to be sustainable.
It’s almost like, you know, doing one thing, sort of seeing that out for a while until it’s really bedded in, and then creating a layer on top of that with your next routine, your next habit.
That’s a really valuable insight. Thank you so much for sharing.
So where can people find you online?
My website, so BracketCreative.co.uk.
I’m on LinkedIn, Alison Coward as well.
I think those are the main two places actually. Yeah.
Great, and so I’ll share those in the show notes as well as the link to your new book, which is coming out on the 21st of November. Alison, thank you so much for your time. I’ve really enjoyed having this conversation with you, and I know that my audience are gonna enjoy it too. Thank you.
Thanks so much, Mich.
So, I think I may want to be like Alison when I grow up, because I love her approach in how she works. And she has a deep understanding of what it takes to help creative teams work well together.
Here’s a few points I want to pull out from our discussion.
The first point is about culture.
In my book, The Cadence Effect, I introduced readers to my Cadence Canvas Framework and culture is one of the four cornerstones of this framework. So I understand the key it plays in supporting our wellbeing, creativity, and productivity. Alison rightly pointed out that culture is vital for team cohesion and effective collaboration. And as we discussed, it’s the responsibility of not just the team leader to facilitate that, because every member of the team plays a role in creating a healthy, happy culture.
When we bring our best selves to work, we can do and achieve even greater things as a team. We can solve bigger challenges. And if our culture is a happy and healthy one, we can have fun doing it together too. But a happy and healthy culture. Doesn’t just happen when the stars align. It takes work. It requires intentionality, consideration, and practice.
As I mentioned in my chat with Alison, it requires a mindset of curiosity. And a willingness to experiment.
The second point. I want to look at relates to workflow, cadence and creativity.
Alison spoke about how creating a rhythm in the way people work together, helps them to communicate more effectively together, too. And one way they can do that is through carefully structured workshops and carefully structured meetings. And this is something that Alison helps teams to do as part of her work.
Now, in my experience, often when creatives hear about having to work in a structured way, their first thought is often that this means working in a rigid way with rules that may stifle their creativity. But structure doesn’t have to be rigid or fixed. It isn’t about creating something inflexible. Instead, think of structure as a loose framework that supports and encourages the free flow of creative ideas, in a way that helps us to capture them effectively and efficiently.
Structure can come in the form of systems, practices, behaviours, rituals, or routines that you perform or engage in as part of your workday. They may be one element of your workday, or they may encourage and influence the flow of your entire day.
Alison mentioned that she has systems to support her, particularly in times of overwhelm. For example, she has a weekly check-in with herself to reflect and learn and plan. Alison has designed that meeting to have a very definitive structure, with a question section, a prompt element and a planning element.
She also tries, where possible, to curate a weekly workflow cadence that is preferential for her focus. For Alison, that means that she prefers Mondays and Fridays to be light on meetings, so she can dedicate some time to content creation, strategic thinking, and the behind the scenes running of her business. And the rest of the week is focused on marketing promotion and delivering client work.
Setting a common or typical rhythm for how most of your week can run, again creates a framework for you to produce your best work. Now, in this scenario or example, the content of what you may do on a Monday, or a Tuesday, or a Friday may differ. But the type of work that you endeavor to focus on on those days stays the same. Working in this way can help you to manage your energy flow during the week. And it can also create a feeling of safety, which can help you to feel more comfortable about stretching yourself in specific ways, because you know, you’ll be doing that on specific days.
As I’ve mentioned several times on the podcast and also in my book, The Cadence Effect, in a busy, noisy world of knowledge work, it’s essential that we create the necessary room to work on our businesses and help solve our client’s critical problems. We cannot do that when we are continually bombarded by things demanding our attention all of the time. We need to cultivate breathing space so we can foster and benefit from more creative and strategic thinking.
Alison shared a super example of how she does this. So give some thought to places in your week where you might be able to carve out a little space to do the same.
The last point I want to consider is around morning routines.
If you’re new to creating intentional morning routines, it’s helpful to remember that our morning routines can evolve to suit the changing needs of our life, while still enabling us to achieve a healthy work-life cadence. They do not need to be rigid or fixed, they adjust and adapt based on the needs of your day, week, month, or year.
You also don’t have to do all the things to benefit from your morning routine. A supportive routine isn’t about cramming in loads of self-development and fitness practices. It’s about finding just a few things that help prepare you to go out there and face the world every day. Whether that’s feeding your cats and starting the day with a good, healthy breakfast. Or enriching your learning with a podcast, calming your mind with meditation, or going for a walk with your dog, or maybe journaling to get the worries out of your head.
The point is that the elements you choose are personal to you. They don’t have to be all the things you can pick one or two and make them your own. The idea is to create a pocket of space for yourself. With regular supportive rituals and routines that you can do without thinking. And which don’t drain your cognitive load. And don’t require a lot of decision-making.
So trawling social media or working on a client presentation during that time, doesn’t really tend to work as part of a supportive morning routine. The activities you pick for your morning routine should be filling you up. They should bolster your wellbeing and energize you. Before you let the clamor of the world invade your space and deplete you.
So think about what tools, rituals, routines, and activities are in your toolkit to help you ground yourself, to manage your stress and prepare you for your day. So that you can stay focused. And, as I said, these may change during the course of your month or year, based on your changing needs.
To paraphrase Alison, the point of being intentional with what we’re doing in the “now”, is to help make our future life a little bit easier.
So, how can you set about being kind to your future self? The answer lies in creating cadence through intentionally productive habits. And starting small in doing so.
A few more things before we go…
The podcast will be on pause next week as I’m moving house. I’ll be back with a finale episode in a few weeks to wrap up my thoughts on the topics covered in this season. In that episode, I’ll also be sharing more details about the new programme that’s launching next year.
You can find out more about my new book at TheCadenceEffect.com. And helpful reviews are always welcome to help the book get found by those who need it.
A reminder too that if you want to be the first to hear about the special offers relating to the new coaching cohort that’s coming in early 2024, please sign up for the cadence newsletter at CreatingCadence.co/subscribe.
Thanks again for listening. Until next time, keep moving forwards with courage, curiosity, and cadence.
Bye for now.
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