Monday Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 quick ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
Today’s guest is Natalie Turner. Natalie is a keynote speaker, author and writer in the field of innovation and creativity. She is inventor of The Six ‘I’s® of Innovation, a methodology and assessment tool that measures how people can play to their strengths in generating new ideas and making them happen and Founder of Women who Lead, a coaching and retreat business for executive female leaders. She is also working on her first novel.
1. Natalie, imagine you’ve had a very #productive day. What made it so for you?
▶ It really depends on what my intention is at the beginning of each day, and that is both about what I want to do, or need to accomplish, and who I want to be, or how I want to show up that day. Some days are very busy with writing, designing or processing, others are full of meetings, and some are quiet times of reflection. At the end of the day, I like to feel content with what I have achieved. I like to feel a sense of accomplishment of moving forward towards achieving goals and living my purpose. As I also love serendipity, a productive day is not necessarily all about my own effort; maybe an email pops into my inbox that opens up an opportunity, or someone reaches out to me with an idea that expands my thinking, or I read something that sparks another line of thought or teaches me something new.
Can you lead us through a usual day of an author, CEO of a global leadership innovation company and international speaker?
▶ I usually get up between 6-6:45 and I start my day with 20 minutes of meditation. I have been meditating regularly for many, many years and it is an integral part of my life. I then do 10 minutes of Qi Gong, which is a moving meditation that allows breath to flow through my body. I am writing a novel, and the mornings are the best time for me to write, so I spend 30-60 minutes writing before I do some exercise and then I have breakfast. I will start work, depending on what is going on, between 9:30 and 10am. I don’t look at any email, news or messages until this time. I usually start my work day going through my email to see what may need attention. If it is just a quick response then I do it straight away, if it needs more consideration, I highlight it and come back to it later. I then write down what I want to focus on as well as what needs to be done. Everyday will be different. I spend my mornings and evenings doing more thinking and writing work when my mind is not so caught up in the nitty gritty of getting things done. I need to allow it to flow without distraction. My social evenings, now under lock down, are spent cooking and eating with my family, listening to music, catching up with friends on Zoom or reading or writing. Once or twice a week, I will have professional get-togethers such as Masterclasses or Webinars.
2. How do you decide what to focus on? Do you have a system or process for strategic planning as well as day to day time management?
▶ I think this may link into the next question about PURPOSE. PURPOSE is integral to what I do, both in day to day things as well as for strategic planning and the bigger picture. Why am I doing what I am doing? What is it that I want to achieve? What impact do I want or hope to have? This helps to align focus, even on the smallest of activities, because everything we do is contributing to something else, whether it is sending an email to someone, writing a proposal, designing a speech, hosting an event. I look for the thread that runs through these things and am aware that time is a precious resource and can be wasted if it is not aligned to the bigger PURPOSE of one’s life. A very simple system I use for day to day work is to divide a page into four quadrants and title them RESULTS, CHANGE, PROCESS and PEOPLE. CHANGE is everything I want to do that is to do with creating new things, designing, writing etc, PROCESS is everything to do with administration and systems, PEOPLE focuses on clients, team members, associates, peers and RESULTS; on sales, achievements, measurable outputs, branding, marketing. If one box has too many things in it to the detriment of the others I know I will fall out of balance, for example, if I am spending too much time in the CHANGE box and not RESULTS, sales will suffer!
3. In the middle of your framework 6 I’s of Innovation – is PURPOSE. Why did you choose to connect all 6 I’s to it? How important is for organizations in these turbulent times to reconnect to it?
▶ PURPOSE is the anchor point of what we do. It is where we can press the pause button on our life, our work and our relationships. PURPOSE is also multi-faceted, there can be the deeper PURPOSE of who we are, as in what is our life about? Which I believe is tied intrinsically to our essence. I see my PURPOSE is to ‘radiate joy and inspire courageous action’. How I live that PURPOSE will change, it is not dependent on what job I do, or where I live, or who I am with, but it is the thread of who I am, why I am alive. PURPOSE at the level of work is about in what domain do I choose to manifest this, where can I play to my greatest strengths? I have chosen to live my PURPOSE through inspiring the creation of innovations that will benefit people and the planet and I have done that through my book, Yes, You Can Innovate and my Six ‘I’s® Model and the services we have created. I am also doing this, albeit through a very different format, through the novel that I am working on. Through fictional storytelling. I think PURPOSE is even more important now, in these times of transformational change, because there is no blueprint for the future. What will guide us? What will be our collective PURPOSE? It is not just about going back to normal, normal is over. We have to create a new way of being and living in all domains of life, and that requires immense creativity, sense making and courage. This is why leadership is so important. It is not about leading people back, it is about leading them forwards, about having a vision that inspires hope to see and create a better world. If we are not PURPOSEful, then when we emerge from this time of social isolation, we will open the doors of our homes and not know where to go. What better chance than now, to really think through everything that we are doing as humans on this planet we call home.
4. Many people struggle to “find their focus”. You’re a speaker, author, consultant, CEO and an Enneagram Certified Practitioner. You practice Qi Gong, and organize leadership retreats for Women (To name a few). When did you realize you’re probably not a “diver”, but a “scanner” (Using – Barbara Sher’s metaphor).
▶ I believe Barbara says that, ‘intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive. In fact, Scanners often describe themselves as being hopelessly interested in everything (although, as you’ll find out, this isn’t so). A Scanner doesn’t want to specialize in any of the things she loves, because that means giving up all the rest. Some even think that being an expert would be limiting and boring’.
Whilst I do identify with aspects of this description, there are parts of the Diver that I find very appealing too. I can, and have, studied at great depth things that interest me. I am highly disciplined and focused and can stay with one subject and go deep. I want to know why? I want to know how? I want to know what does this mean? One of the reasons I find the Integrative9 Enneagram a really useful tool for understanding human motivation and behaviour, which I use in my coaching work with clients and also the Retreats I run with women, is that it brings a nuance to understanding one’s personality that is holographic, it is not binary – it is not either or, or this or that.
If I go back to my PURPOSE, which is what I feel really drives me at a deeper level than my motivation, the Red Thread that runs through all the things you mention, is the same. If I am to radiate joy and inspire courageous action I need to be at peace in myself. I need to be mindful. I need to surface the unconscious patterns of how I think and feel so that I become more aware, so that I can live in flow, and Qi Gong is one of the practices that helps me to do this, it also helps with the aches and pains of sitting at a computer for hours on end!
I have studied with numerous schools of thought around the Enneagram, for over 18 years, to go deeper, to help understand myself and others at a more fundamental level. If I believe that PURPOSE should guide us, pattern making and sense making instruments such as the Enneagram help to serve this. I have manifested my PURPOSE through the platforms that I have created such as Women who Lead and The Six ‘I’s® of Innovation and more lately, I am exploring bringing my PURPOSE to life through writing a novel. Believe me, to write a novel requires one to be both a Scanner and a Diver. No doubt there will be other platforms of expressions yet to emerge that I don’t know about. So yes, I am a Scanner, most likely influenced by both nurture and nature, but certainly I love to Dive too!
5. Achievement vs Fulfilment? Is it possible to have both? How does one find their own balance, their own “sweet spot” of living a meaningful and productive life?
▶ I suppose it depends on how one defines achievement and the measure of value that we place on ourselves to know when we have ‘got there’. What does it mean to be productive? How does this relate to success? I observe people over identifying with an image that they create of themselves and then crash when that image is shattered. It has happened a few times with me too. I have found my sweet spot by digging deep into who I am, and who I am evolving to be, through years and years of self-discovery, of opening myself to life, to love, to pain, to failure, to joy. We don’t become the fullest sense of who we are through self-protection. It is only in living life wholeheartedly, without restraint, with passion and determination, that we start to step see that what we seek is seeking us, that it is already here and in the words of Rumi, the great Sufi poet, we should “follow what excites the spirit.” How sweet the taste is to feel a deep sense of fulfilment with one’s life everyday, whatever may have happened, and to look at it, to be grateful and to say, ‘it was good. I did my very best with who I am and what I have. Thank you’.
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
If you have any questions to Natalie, please leave your comment below!
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Thanks for reading and Happy Monday!
Stoyan Yankov is a productivity coach and a professional speaker, who’s helped teams to grow and increase their performance in over 20 countries; through his trainings, workshops and coaching programs.
Stoyan co-developed the #perform methodology together with Cristobal Alonso (CEO, Startup Wise Guys), applied in hundreds of startup team across Europe. Together they are finishing the book: PERFORM – The Unsexy Truth about (Startup) Success, including cases and examples from the best startup founders in #NewEurope.