What does a life coach do? It’s a question that many people have asked at some point in their lives, and ever since I began my career in coaching, it’s a question I have faced many times.
It can be hard to find the right words to describe the role of a life coach, but recently, while I was on a long road trip with my family, it occurred to be that a life coach is basically a GPS app for your career, relationships, or personal development in general. Like a GPS device, a coach helps you figure out where you are now, where you want to be, and what specific steps you need to take to get there.
Sometimes, I’ll be talking with someone about coaching, and they will say, “So it’s like… counseling?” It’s a fair question, but it’s important to make the clear distinction that coaching is not the same thing as counseling. A life coach is different from a therapist or counselor, because they do not diagnose clients or treat mental health conditions.
A therapist might help someone who has anxiety, but a life coach will help someone who wants to quit smoking or who wants to improve their relationships with their children or spouse by identifying what they want and how they’re going to get there.
A therapist will listen to what you say and help you sort out your emotional responses; a life coach will help you take action on what you want and need, based on the information that comes out of that conversation.
A good way to think about it is that a counselor listens, while a coach, well, coaches. A counselor helps you look back and process things from your past that are affecting your life in the present. A coach helps you identify where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. Both are supportive, caring professionals who want to see you succeed; the main difference is that a counselor helps you work through why you may feel stuck, while coaches focus on helping clients move forward toward the future they envision for themselves.
If you are interested in seeing whether working with a coach would be helpful for you, I’d love to chat! Set up a free Initial Coaching Conversation starting here.
There is still time to register for tomorrow’s webinar, “Putting Technology in its Place!” Click the image below for more information and to sign up.
Saying “no” is really hard for some people, especially those of us who are bent toward connections. We fear that when we say “no,” we might disappoint someone. Or we might miss out on a cool opportunity. Or we might burn a bridge.
But the ability to say “no” is an invaluable asset. It contributes to better boundaries, better time management, and better mental health.
A question I like to ask my clients is, “By saying ‘yes’ to that, what are you saying ‘no’ to?” When we consider that we have limited resources of time and energy, we realize that we need to be selective about what we say “yes” to. There are only so many hours in the day, and if we aren’t intentional about our commitments, we can find ourselves spending our limited resources in places that don’t really matter to us, without anything left for the things that do matter.
With that, here are five tips for getting better at saying “no.”
1. Identify Your Priorities and Filter Requests Through Them
Two things happened in 2021 that helped me reprioritize my life in 2022. First, my dad was diagnosed with a “rare and aggressive” cancer called angiosarcoma. And second, my eldest daughter graduated from high school.
Both of these events served as wake-up call. In them, I realized that I won’t have my dad or my kids here forever. This season of life, with my mom and dad living down the road and my kids living in my house, are just that—a season. And as I did my year-end assessment and prepared for 2022, I recognized that I needed to make some changes in order to make the most of my time with my parents and my children while I can.
These priorities—time with my parents and my kids—have shaped many of the decisions I’ve made, and they have freed me to say “no” to things that would displace them from my schedule. Identifying your priorities can do the same for you.
2. Design Your Schedule Around Your Priorities
When you clearly identify and define your priorities, you can filter decisions through them, bringing clarity to when it’s appropriate to say “no.”
Time with my parents when my kids are there is very different from time with them alone, so I created a work schedule that allows me to spend time with them every Friday while the kids are in school. I go to the gym and, on my way home, stop in at their house. Mom makes coffee and often has something freshly baked, and we sit in the kitchen and talk for an hour or so. It has become a highlight of my week. Saying “no” to certain work opportunities, which would involve less flexibility and require me to work on Fridays, has allowed me to say “yes” to spending quality time with my parents each week.
Likewise, wanting to be with my kids more has helped me say “no” to things that take me away from them on a regular basis. They are in school Monday-Friday for seven hours, so I really only have between five-six waking hours with them each day. During those hours, we have extracurriculars, homework, piano practice, household contributions, play dates, and things like meals and showers. When you really think about it, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for meaningful conversations or going out for “special time.”
By blocking out my working hours, evenings with my kids, and Friday mornings with my parents, I am invariably saying “no” to “calendar creep” — less important opportunities that would take me from what matters most to me in this season of life.
3. Resist Trying to Squeeze Things In
“I already have plans” is a perfectly acceptable reason to say no to something. Never mind the fact that your plans are to go to bed early, clean out a closet, or take a walk. Some people think if they don’t have a “legitimate” conflict, they need to try to squeeze things in, saying things like, “I can make that work.”
I encourage people to remove “I can make that work” from their vocabulary. Instead of squeezing things in, pursue a schedule that contains white space, and protect that white space as if your life depended on it! We can all use a bit more breathing room, and white space allows for that.
4. Give Someone Else the Ball
I’ve always been someone who had a high capacity for leadership and service, which naturally meant that I had positions of leadership in just about everything I was involved with, and I volunteered every time a need arose. But just because you can lead something doesn’t mean you should. Once I became more selective about the commitments I made, I made room for others to lead and serve. And it felt great.
Some people have no problem saying no, and God bless ’em! But for the rest of us, it’s a skill that takes honing. While we may indeed disappoint someone, or we may in fact miss out on a cool opportunity every now and then, I’ve learned that as we get better at saying no, we experience more fruitfulness in the areas where we have said an intentional “yes,” leading to a life marked by flourishing rather than frustration.
Christy Tennant Krispin is a Whole Life Coach helping clients live more intentionally in alignment with their goals and values across all spheres of life. Schedule a free consultation with Christy here.
I am so excited to host “Putting Technology In Its Place” twice this month!
This webinar is aimed at helping you establish and maintain healthy tech habits in 2023. Over the past year, as I have worked with clients of all ages and backgrounds, a theme that has come up with many folks has been the effect of technology and digital media on our quality of life.
Don’t get me wrong: I love what technology and digital media makes possible! I’m an avid user of apps and streaming services. I appreciate how these things help me be more productive, connected, and entertained!
But left unchecked, there is a shadow side to technology as well. Relationships, job performance, mental health, and sleep are all affected by having an unboundaried, unintentional approach to social media and digital engagement.
In this webinar, I will address the why behind our use of digital technology, and then offer eight practices you can begin implementing immediately to develop healthy boundaries and put technology in its proper place!
Tuesday, January 24, 2023 – 12:00 PM (EST)
Tuesday, January 31 – 8:00 PM (EST)
Putting Technology in it’s Place (January 24, 2023 – 12:00 PM EST)
A recording of the webinar will be available after the event for all who register! If you are unable to join live, you can access the recording later.
Putting Technology in it’s Place (January 31, 2023 – 8:00 PM EST)
A one-hour webinar on establishing and maintaining healthy tech habits in 2023 + access to a recording of the event afterward.
A recording of the webinar will be available after the event for all who register! If you are unable to join live, you can access the recording at a time that suits you.
Make 2023 the year you put technology in its place!
Part of being a good leader, whether of many or just in your own home, is being able to manage effectively and make decisions when under pressure. But not everyone realizes that prioritizing under pressure is a skill that can be developed. As a professional businesswoman and homemaker, I know this well.
Recently, I had one of those days.
You know the ones: To Do List a mile long. Looming deadlines. Last-minute “emergencies.” A client meeting in the middle of the day. A birthday dinner to prepare and presents to wrap. Not to mention I was flying cross-country with my husband and four of our five children the following day, and I had not yet packed for anyone.
That morning, I woke up and felt the panic slowly beginning to creep in. How am I going to get it all done before we leave tomorrow? Everything felt urgent and important, but the truth was, I wasn’t going to get “it all” done. That would have been impossible.
But there were some things that I had to get done, because they were time-sensitive and important. As I felt my chest tighten, my mood darken, and my thoughts starting to spiral, I turned to a tool I use with clients who are struggling to prioritize tasks when under pressure, a framework based on something called “The Eisenhower Matrix.”
Dwight Eisenhower was a man who carried a lot of responsibilities, first as a U.S. Army General, Allied Forces Commander during WWII, and NATO Commander after that, and then as the 34th President of the United States. In other words, the man knew how to get stuff done. Making decisions and prioritizing tasks while under immense, life-and-death pressure was a skill he developed and systematized in order to help others develop this skill as well.
The framework he used is exactly what I turned to that day. I didn’t have to look it up; I have used this so many times that I could just imagine the grid in my mind and quickly categorize every task accordingly. And it was just what I needed to help me focus, prioritize, and regain a sense of peace in the midst of the storm of stress that was swirling around me.
Here’s how it works:
First, do a quick assessment of the tasks and decisions before you. Ask yourself, “Is this urgent? Is it important?” Depending on how you answer those questions, quickly do one of the following:
DO IT NOW. If the task is both urgent (i.e. time-sensitive) and important (i.e. necessary), buckle down and do it now. Because of our trip the next day, tasks like cleaning out the car and packing the kids’ and my suitcases were both urgent and necessary. So was the client meeting and running to the grocery store for more cat and dog food and a birthday cake for Dad. I got to it and did those tasks that day.
PLAN TO DO IT LATER. I keep a document in my Notes app on my phone, and anything that can be done later goes on that list. If the task is important and necessary, but can wait, it goes on that list. I then block out time on my calendar for those tasks. The particular day in question, I had bank deposits to process, invoices to log, a blog to write, a letter to write, copious amounts of reading for my current seminary class, and some other things that were demanding my attention. The bank deposit can happen today, but I can log the invoices, write the blog and letter, and those other things later. Once I put those tasks on my “Later List,” I could move on from them for now.
DELEGATE WHERE POSSIBLE. One of the things I wanted to do before we left town for a week was to get my Christmas tree out to the curb before all of the needles dropped in my living room. But just the thought of taking time to remove the ornaments and get them packed up with everything else I had going on felt overwhelming. So I asked my son to remove all of the ornaments from the tree. Soon, without being asked, my older daughter began taking down the lights and garland from our staircase bannister, and the younger kids followed her lead and started pitching in to help as well. Within an hour, the Christmas decorations were mostly packed up and the tree was on the curb. A task that had felt overwhelming earlier that day was finished.
ELIMINATE ANYTHING THAT IS NOT IMPORTANT AND URGENT. Just delete it from your radar. Poof! On the day I’m describing, I eliminated cleaning the house (why do we always feel the need to clean our house top to bottom before going on vacation?!) and baking a cake for my dad (I bought one instead, but displayed it on my fancy cake stand. It was beautiful and delicious and no one cared that it wasn’t made from scratch!)
We may not be leading an army or the free world, but each of us is fighting our own battles every day. Whether we are running a company, a department, a church, or a household (or some combination of these), we face the challenge of knowing what to do when and how without losing our minds or operating from a place of stress, when we are more likely to drop balls or make poor decisions.
Getting to know the Eisenhower Matrix adds a tool to our toolbox and helps us develop a skill that every high-capacity leader must have: the skill of prioritizing under pressure.
Now is a great time to start preparing for the year ahead.
Here’s an exercise I encourage everyone to do sometime in the next month. If you try it out, I’d love to hear what becomes clearer to you from doing this?
This is the first step in my “2023 By Design” plan, but I’m telling you here exactly what I do with my clients so you can just do it on your own if you don’t want to sign up for the whole plan. I *promise* you, this will help set you up for a more focused and fruitful 2023!
Sit down with your 2022 calendar/planner/datebook, bank and credit card statements, and a piece of paper folded in thirds.
On one third of the paper, write “More,” on another, write, “Same,” and on the third side, write “Less.” Starting in January, go through each month and put each item from your calendar into one of those columns. Scan your financial statements and consider those as well. Where did your money go in 2022? What do you want to do more/less/same of?
Include everything! Appointments, coffee dates, work, church or civic commitments, vacations, pet expenses, kids’ extracurriculars, family rhythms, etc.
Once you have your three lists, begin looking at 2023. Using a blank 2023 calendar or planner, begin to plug in the things from your “More” column. At the same time, take stock of your “Less” column and act accordingly.
For example, this exercise helped me realize at the end of 2021 that, as much as a love being a worship leader, I did not want to have that weekend commitment (and all of the extra work throughout the week that goes along with it) during this season of life, so I stepped down from my staff position, freeing me up to be more present to my family during the weekend and host Sunday dinners—two things from my “More” column. I’ve been a worship leader for the better part of the past twenty-one years—it’s just what I’ve always done!—but making these lists helped me see clearly that it was not the season for me to be doing it every weekend. This also created space for me to pursue coaching, which I love and can do while my children are in school.
This exercise also helped us decide where we were spending too much money on extracurriculars and what changes we could make the next year.
What might these lists help you see more clearly about how you’re spending those precious resource—your time and your money—in your current season of life?
This is also a great time to make those “Same” appointments, like annual physical exams and dental check-ups, and to plug in the things that are working well for you in this season (for us, this includes blocking out Friday nights for pizza and movies with the kids, a beloved tradition in our home and something everyone looks forward to, but tweaking how we do it so I could spend less than I had been spending on it in the previous year!)
By doing this exercise in 2021, I was able to design a 2022 that has turned out to be a really fruitful and surprisingly spacious year, considering all of the people and moving parts in my life! This year I was able to focus on doing more of what mattered and less of what didn’t. This year has held more quality time with my husband, children, and parents, more prayer, more reading, launching a new career as a coach, less chaos, and less frustration with feeling like my time is not my own. Even though much of what I do in this season of life is about serving others, I have created space and intention, allowing plenty of time and opportunities for filling my own bucket.
This was especially helpful when some things came up during the year that were really hard and required a lot of emotional strength and clarity. Because I had space and good alignment, I had a greater capacity for handling the necessary interruptions and pivots required.
I am really passionate about this practice, and I want to help others experience the fruitful results of being well aligned with your priorities and values.
If you try this exercise, I’d love to hear what became clearer to you as you did it! What changes are you going to make in 2023?
“What’s important *now*?” is the question that will most ground you when life is feeling hard, overwhelming, or just “too much.”
This morning came too soon, after I was up with a sick child after already going to bed much later than was ideal. (May is, after all, the new December! 😳) My husband’s away, so tagging out was not an option. (My hat is off to so many of you who parent solo 24/7!)
So this morning, I needed to swim through fatigue and find my way back to being fully present—my kairos moment, here and now. And this is what I came to: I need time to read and sip coffee on my front porch.
My dog and I got a much shorter walk, but a long walk did not feel nearly as important as going treasure hunting in the pages of these books.
I set a timer and let myself be fully present to the singing birds, neighbors on their morning walks, sounds from the construction zone down the street, lawnmower up and running first thing a few doors down, strong (decaf) coffee in my mug, pages of my books, and smooth feel of the highlighter in my hand. When ideas came that tried to take me away from this here and now (the email I need to send, appointments I need to make or cancel, paper I need to work on for class, thoughts for the coaching calls I have later today, and even this Instagram post), I jotted it down on my “for later” list then got back to my books. The other things will get done, but by putting them in their place (“Later”), I could be fully present to what I’ve recognized is what I most need here and now.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” (Socrates)
Getting a lot done is not the same as being busy.
I get a lot done.
But, increasingly and with much intention, I’m very rarely “busy” these days. It’s an important distinction.
Decision fatigue refers to “a state of mental overload that can impede a person’s ability to continue making decisions.” (AMA) The basic idea is that, the more decisions a person makes throughout the day, the harder it becomes to make decisions, or to make good decisions.
It’s a real thing, and it’s something that comes up a lot with my clients, most of whom are professional women in high levels of leadership (entrepreneurs, small business owners, executives) who also run busy households (i.e. they have children at home). These women have to make all of the decisions for themselves at work and at home, plus the decisions that impact others—employees, colleagues, and the children and other adults who live in their home.
As I’ve coached my clients (and myself!) to deal with decision fatigue, I’ve identified three key areas to focus on: creating systems and maintaining routines, delegating decisions to others, and editing your life to reduce the number of decisions you have to make. I thought I’d share a bit about what each of these might look like in hopes that it might be helpful to you as well!
First, reduce decision fatigue by creating systems and letting those systems make many of the daily decisions for you.
Over the years, I’ve played around and created systems for my household for everything from meal planning and grocery shopping (Taco Tuesday, anyone?), to household contributions (you might call them chores), to scheduling, to gifts for the (many) birthday parties my kids get invited to (I buy a bunch of craft kits and my kids can pick one from the gift closet when it’s time to go to a birthday party).
But one of my favorite systems has to do with getting dressed in the morning.
If you are someone who has a lot of responsibilities at work and at home, sometimes the last thing you think about is what to wear. So, you grab whatever and throw it on, then realize later in the day you feel, as one client put it, “like a schlump.” Unfortunately, this affects your confidence, because everything is connected. As Image Consultant Kim Peterson writes, “Research reveals that dressing your truth and authentic style builds up your resilience. Even though you may be still working from home, there is tremendous power and value in getting dressed and showin’ up – even if it’s just for yourself.” What we wear matters!
We need a system for simplifying getting dressed without compromising style.
In 2014, I became a mother through foster care. In one day, I went from no children to two children, ages five years old and five months old. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming number of decisions to make! The best advice I got came from entrepreneur Cara Veale Coniglio, Owner/Designer at Time and the Bell and mother of two, when she said, “You need a uniform.” What she meant was, you need an outfit that you don’t need to give a second thought to—you put it on because it’s your uniform. Your uniform should be functional for the season of life and work you’re in, but also something you feel confident in.
I have carried this concept through the last eight years, from the stylish cotton tunics and leggings of my midnight feeding days, which went from night to day (and sometimes back to night again 😬), to the jeans, graphic tees, and blazers I’m into right now. And I borrow the “Geranimals” concept: I can mix and match tops and bottoms without much thought. Easy peasy.
From a professional standpoint, this also ties in with personal branding. By having a “uniform,” you have a very simple built-in plan for dressing confidently and communicating something about who you are, which, whether we like it or not, is part of how we attract new clients.
The second area to focus on when seeking to reduce decision fatigue is delegating decisions to others. It’s vital that we develop the mindset and skills to delegate effectively, both at work and at home. Always be looking for who within your sphere could do a task that naturally defaults to you.
Because I work four days a week, I cannot possibly carry the full responsibility of doing everything that needs to happen in order for our household to function. I can manage it, but I can’t do it all. At home, our kids have morning and evening checklists to help them remember what they need to do before leaving the house and before going to bed. We have a chart showing which parent is reading to which child each night (the chart decides for us). We also have a very long list of household tasks that need to be done on a daily or semi-daily basis. Everyone is expected to contribute, and we have a record of who does what, because everyone initials next to the job they’ve done. We discuss the contributions, and how folks are doing with helping out, at our weekly family meeting. I also delegate meal planning to my kids once a week or so—yes, even my seven-year-old takes a turn planning dinner. With some coaching and guidance (which I wrote about here), they plan what we’ll have. It’s empowering for them, and takes one more decision off my plate. All I have to do is add their ingredients to my shopping list.
At work, delegating tasks is a wonderful way to identify and empower leaders in your company, whether you are a small business or in the C-suite of a major corporation, and it’s a great way to reduce the number of decisions that fall to you. One of the best questions a boss can ask an employee is, “What do you think we should do?” Usually, they have been thinking about it and already have good ideas for how to handle something. Take time to ask yourself, “Do I need to be the one doing this? Is this something I could delegate?” If the answers are “no” and “yes” respectively, delegate.
The last recommendation I make to clients who suffer from decision fatigue is to edit your life and reduce the number of decisions you need to make!
I borrowed the term “edit your life” from Gary McKeown’s phenomenal book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (here is a great summary of the book on Medium). The concept is simple: editing is “the strict elimination of the trivial, unimportant, or irrelevant.” Successfully editing your life involves cutting out options and knowing when to say “no.” In fact, McKeown devotes a section of this book to ways to artfully and gracefully say, “no.” I have found it such a helpful concept and saying “no” is now something I love to do, because I know it means I’m saying, “yes” to something better. As my friend and mentor Sean Callahan of Strategic Impact UK often says, “By saying yes to that, what are you saying no to?” This is such an important concept, and it is a vital component of reducing decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is a common challenge for professional women managing a busy company and busy household. By identifying and addressing the ways we can reduce it, we can create more margin for ourselves, lower our stress, and flourish at work and at home.