Where does the time go?

Research tells us that we are slightly delusional – we think we are doing one thing, but are actually doing something else. To help us check back in with reality we created a Time Analysis template to complement our previous blogs; in January’s blog I asked you to think about putting everything into a schedule, last month was prioritizing, this month I am asking you to revisit that schedule and see where does time really go by using our simple, free Time Analysis tool. In this way we aim to eliminate tasks, which do not take us closer to our objectives, thus creating more time for the ‘right’ things.

shown below, (see link at end of this article to download your free copy):

  • The first column separates the day into 15 minute blocks,

  • The next column provides space to record the activity undertaken
  • Column 3 indicates whether this was your planned activity or if you were interrupted (i.e. unscheduled),
  • Column 4 records your energy level (H = high, M = medium, L = low).
  • Column 5 records the quadrant number (1 urgent & important, 2 non-urgent & important, etc. See February’s blog for further explanation).

How to Use It

Select two or three fairly typical days from your schedule, (a week is better, but don’t overcommit at this stage, as this will require some discipline to complete well). While the final column can be filled in in retrospect, all of the others should be completed at 15-minute intervals, without this accuracy will be sacrificed. Consider setting a 15-minute reminder to run throughout the day. Be honest with yourself – if you were chatting to Steph about the weekend, record chatting – this is for your eyes only and no benefit will be derived from self-delusion.

At the end of the exercise review what you have been doing – how much time have you spent in Q2 (leaders should aim for 80%), how much in Q1 – what planning can you do to prevent repeats of crises? What Q3 activities can you delegate and are you prepared to stop doing the things in Q4?

You will also see whether or not you are keeping to the schedule you set for yourself – if not, why not? What can you do to reduce/eliminate interruptions so that you are working to your own agenda and moving closer to your goals?

Reviewing your energy level will allow you to recognise when you are at your best and therefore the best time to schedule your most important and challenging work in future. Use these insights to plan your coming weeks to achieve the ‘important’ and eliminate the distractions.


To download the Time Analysis template for free (and without the need to leave your email address – just think of us when you need some help) use the link below



About the Author: Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator, and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of £1 – 10m turnover and who wish to effect positive change, particularly those making a positive impact on the environment . She collaborates to help them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Your can contact her at

enquiries @yibp.co.uk  or 07789 520205

Doing The Right Things

We are all busy, right? Too much to do and too little time? It certainly feels that way, but sometimes we are so busy heroically scaling the proverbial ladder that we fail to notice that it is lent against the wrong wall. As Andy Pausch said “it’s not doing things right, but doing the right things”, but how do we know if we are doing the right things?

Thankfully Franklin Covey came up with a smart little tool, which helps us to conceptualise what we are doing



How to use Franklin Covey’s Time Matrix

All of our tasks can be plotted on this 2 x 2 matrix according to how important and urgent they are. What is important/urgent for me may not be so for you, (and vice versa), so make judgments based on your own priorities. (Priorities will be difficult to define if you don’t know your major goals, this is a whole separate subject, which I will tackle in a subsequent blog). Look at your agenda – which of these boxes does each task sit:

  • Q1 Urgent & Important – these are crises/big issues that need to be dealt with right now.
  • Q2 Not Urgent & Important – essentially this is planning, which we can put off and generally do off.
  • Q3 Urgent & Not Important – these are the sort of things you should think about delegating, (if they aren’t important to you, why are you doing them?)
  • Q4 – Not Urgent & Not Important

Be honest with yourself – this is for your eyes, no need to share.

NB Relationship-building activity belongs in Q2  – a common mistake is to assume that this is a Q4 activity – wrong! Relationships and the maintenance of them are essential – we are social animals relying on one another both for motivation and cooperation; relationships are important, make time for them.

The critical factor is to spend time in Q2; this automatically shrinks Q1 and Q3 – while planning is not fool-proof, it does mean that we raise our heads and think about why the boat is sinking, rather than endlessly baling out.

Use the Planning Tool from last month’s blog to check your balance by assigning Q1 – 4 to each activity. If you are spending less than 50% of your time in Q2 you are probably not leading effectively.

If you struggle to understand where your time is going, I will address this in next month’s blog, (drop me a line if you would like to be signed up to receive it).



About the Author: Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator, and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of £1 – 10m turnover and who wish to effect positive change, particularly those making a positive impact on the environment . She collaborates to help them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Your can contact her at

enquiries @yibp.co.uk  or 07789 520205

Ditch Perfectionism – Combat Procrastination

It’s a good thing to set your standards high but just watch out for the potential downside of perfectionism – procrastination. When I was in my mid twenties, I had a tendency to want everything that I did to be perfect, so much so that anxiety about failing to reach that standard sometimes prevented me from actually getting started on anything. I was effectively “paralysed by self-consciousness,” as my therapist put it. It was a very self-limiting thought process and I was very happy to put it behind me. Nowadays I am always eager to learn new things and impatient to start out on new adventures. So how did I get to where I am now?

The first step was to recognise I had a problem ‘perfectionism’ (not an easy admission) and the second was to seek advice. Self-awareness and taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions were key to making my way out of this roundabout of limited beliefs, and the best piece of advice I received during the process was:

“It ‘just doesn’t matter’ Have a go, do your best, learn from it, and press on. At times ‘good enough’ is good enough.”

Here are the key things that keep me on the straight and narrow:
• I don’t shy away for fear of making mistakes: at least I am actually doing stuff and can take the opportunity to learn from the mistakes.
• I avoid negative self-talk and replace it with more positive and helpful statements, such as switching “I have lost” to “I have learnt.”
• When something goes wrong, I try to keep it in proportion by asking myself: “On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is death) how important is this issue and how important will it be tomorrow, next week, next year?”
• I resist any tendency to become self-absorbed, and I find that helping others is a great way to accomplish this.
• I have learned to laugh about myself!

If you want to learn more from some fine experts, here are links to a TED talk Reshma Saujani’s Teach Girls Bravery Not Perfection and book to read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Finally, some wise words from Seth Godwin:

“Start small, start now. This is much better than, ‘start big, start later.’ One advantage is that you don’t have to start perfect. You can merely start.”



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Setting Your 2017 Objectives

The final weekend of the year is a great time to reflect on your performance against the goals you set for 2016, (or perhaps you didn’t?) and to decide your priorities for 2017.

If this is not something you have previously done I’d really like to encourage you to do so this time, so that you can start the year with clarity. In much the same way as your monthly one-to-ones provide space to agree appropriate objectives and to review progress/discuss ways of overcoming barriers, having annual objectives is an important part of your journey to success.

While this might initially seem an onerous task, remember each journey starts with a single step. I suggest keeping it very simple with a 2×2 matrix, (see link for our template), which lays out objectives not just for your work life, but has a more holistic approach to ensure you avoid burn-out and really think deeply about what you want to achieve.

It’s a good idea to do a first draft with two or three goals in each quadrant and then sleep on it before returning the next day, that way you can be certain that your goals are the right ones. From here create a realistic plan to make them a reality by the end of the year, (rather than a December sprint!)

Don’t miss out quadrant four ‘Well-being’ – this is key to ensuring balance and the avoidance of burnout.

Have a marvellous 2017.


About the Author: Fran McArthur is a business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Implementing Brilliant Strategic Plans


So you have spent your summer devising the most brilliant new business strategy, carefully taking into consideration the changes in your sector, the impact of Brexit, the plummeting value of sterling, skills gaps, disruptive new technologies, plus those which could create competitor advantage. You have locked yourself away for painstaking hours and huge dedication to hone and polish you brilliant strategic plan. So why is successful implementation so incredibly difficult, (according to the Gallup Business Journal, only 2.5% of change programmes are fully implemented)?

Superb plans are only the first small step in creating successful and sustainable change, and going it alone without buy-in can be like pushing water uphill – your people will either move heaven and earth to make it happen or will undermine it at every turn. How can you make sure it is the former?

My first observation is that you have locked yourself away instead of involving your team in the planning stage. How much more committed are you to a plan that you helped to formulate, rather than one, (however brilliant), that has been imposed upon you. Human nature is such that we are far more likely to iron out the flaws along the way to make the plan a success rather than highlight the shortcomings if we have personally been involved in its formulation. There is an adage that suggests a mediocre plan, actually executed is better than a perfect plan in limbo, so get your people on board early, ‘perfect’ plans frequently get no further than the planning stage. Consult widely, provide the relevant data and then listen to feedback – be prepared to amend your plans to reflect input – gaining buy-in is more important than a strategically brilliant plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Now let’s think about dissemination: Remember how many blind alleys you went up before you came to your ‘perfect’ strategy? Try not to present the final plan, but take them on the journey, so that they can grasp the logic– remember how long it took you to create the plan, don’t expect everyone else to grasp it a the first airing. Let them question it – this means more heads on the same problem while you are also gaining buy-in and getting people to work out for themselves what their own/their teams imperatives are to deliver the overall objective. It’s also hugely important that everyone knows not only what you are trying to achieve, but also their part is achieving success.

As part of the process, get each team, (cascading through the organisation), to consider their own two or three lead measures, (activities predictive of the lag measures), ensuring that they are SMART. Each team should create their own targets, decide on the relevant lead measures, then log them on their own scoreboard, so that they can quickly and easily see exactly how they are performing at any time. Get them to meet weekly for a brief review of progress, clearing away obstacles for one another and amending activities, (lead measures),as necessary in light of the results being achieved.

Come together more widely on a regular basis to share results more widely, learn from one another and celebrate successes.

A quick checklist for any change project:

  • Involve your people from the start – more perspectives on the issue and gaining early buy-in.
  • Communicate your vision widely, taking them on the journey rather than describing the destination.
  • Invite them to decide how they can best contribute to the overall objective.
  • Measure lead measures & regularly review to calibrate activities as required.
  • Keep communicating
  • Success through iteration: learn from failures and celebrate successes on the way.

Be bold, but focused!


If you would like some practical assistance in implementing change in your organisation give us a call (see top right for number) or drop us a line – we would be delighted to meet for a free of charge, no obligation discussion of your situation and explore how we can help or if appropriate refer you to someone who can



Fran McArthur 1

About the AuthorFran McArthur is a business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Tick-Tock Time Management

Have you ever run out of day before you’ve achieved all you intended to? That tick-tock feeling of time draining away? Have you noticed that some people never seem to and, what’s more, they make it look effortless? How do they manage their “to-do” lists without stress and still have time left over for leisure? Well, here are some clues:


Top Ten Time Wasters:

  1. Losing or misplacing things
  2. Technology – turned on all the time
  3. Unproductive or unnecessary meetings
  4. Unnecessary levels of perfectionism
  5. Task-hopping
  6. Fire-fighting
  7. Dodgy delegation
  8. Distractions
  9. Procrastination
  10. Interruptions


Top ten time management tools

  1. A well-organised work space
  2. Effective filing (electronic or otherwise)
  3. Confidence in acting decisively
  4. Delegating effectively
  5. Using Covey’s time matrix* (spend most of your time in Q2 high importance / low urgency)
  6. Checking emails only at specific times of the day
  7. Using technology effectively
  8. Scheduling everything
  9. Carrying your schedule and contact list with you all the time
  10. Looking after yourself i.e. enough sleep*, adequate exercise, healthy diet etc.


There are plenty of books, TED talks etc. which help you to use your time more efficiently and enjoyably. One of my favourite TED talks – and I am not alone – is Arianna Huffington – how to succeed get more sleep

*The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Well worth a re-read and a must for all libraries – personal and business. It includes the time matrix mentioned above.



If you would like to learn a bit more about time management and some practical tools for getting more out of your life in 2016, make a start by joining one of our half-day workshops.



The Author: Rachel Ward Lilley is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal.


Help & Support

How To Find The Right Business Coach

So you have heard great things about how other business leaders are getting better results in a shorter period of time by engaging a business coach, and you have decided to take the plunge and see what it can do for your business, but how do you find the right business coach? One who understands you and your struggles, has been there, done that and understands the pain. One who works at the right pace, adapts to your needs and doesn’t judge?

Doug White, editor of The Creative Group, a career and management insights website, suggests looking for someone  “authentic, empathetic, creative and honest. You need someone who’s caring and invested in your professional growth, but also someone who will speak truth to you. Sometimes, you need some constructive criticism or a reality check, while other times, you need a high five or pat on the back.”

Remember, a coach is not a consultant, who will provide you with all the answers – to use the fish analogy; your coach will not give you a fish, but rather, will teach you how to fish. Thus, by asking the right questions he or she will help you to pinpoint the right solution for you. This is a problem-solving skill, which once learned, will be invaluable to you throughout both your professional and personal life.

Here are some things to think about when choosing a coach:

First of all be proactive in your search, don’t wait to get selected, go out and find the right individual. Talk to people in your network who have been coached, ask about their experiences, (good and bad), and ask for recommendations. Arrange an initial exploratory meeting, (you should not expect to pay for this). Just because you are not paying, you should not treat it lightly – this is potentially a very important relationship, so treat it as an interview:

  • Do some homework on the coach – look at their LinkedIn profile, who do you know in their network – call them and ask their opinion of the individual. If you have no common links, then ask the coach for references, (this can be done at the end of your meeting).
  • Remember that a coach does not need to come from the your industry, but they do need to have had broad business experience.
  • Be careful if selecting someone you already know – will they really be entirely objective and are they able to speak truth to you, even when it is uncomfortable for you to hear?
  • During your initial meeting explain what you are hoping to take from a coaching relationship and find out about your potential coach:
    • Their experience of successful problem solving. (NB Don’t dismiss coaches who have had failures during their career, this is extremely useful learning, from which you may be able to benefit).
    • Their belief system – is it similar to your own?
    • It is important that a coach holds you to account for your commitments; they should show strength without being a bully, be prepared to speak the truth, but in a constructive manner. Look for evidence of this.
Business Coach Manchester

Business Coach Manchester

It is essential that you are able to trust a coach and have a rapport – if you are in doubt about their integrity or your ability to work with them, they are not the right person for you – keep looking. Equally, the coach must feel comfortable working with you – at the end of your initial meeting either party can decide to take things no further, do not treat it as an affront if a potential coach does not wish to take things further, the fit must work for both parties.

Be wary of a coach who wants to tie you in for a long period of time. A coaching relationship is only good as long as it is delivering results, at any time either party should be able to walk away with a  “no fault divorce”, no obligations, no blame and no hard feelings.

So go on, get out there and find yourself a coach who can save you time, money and heartache by working with you to determine the right roadmap to your success.

Learn about Executive Coaching

By Fran McArthur Business Coach Manchester Google +