Some weeks ago I was answering some questions from Stoyan Yankov about Monday productivity. I loved his questions! Copying the answers here for my own reference ;-)

Stoyan: 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.

1. You have previously worked in a number of large corporates. Why did you decide to switch to a career as an independent entrepreneur? Was there a defining moment, and triggered this decision?

▶ Yes, it was my manager. And as it was the second time that I wanted to quit because of my manager, I decided, no more managers, who tell me what to do. Working with the corporate world from “outside” now, I feel sad to see, how many organizations are not productive because of bad management and how many people celebrate: “Thanks God, it’s Friday!”

2. The slogan of your own webpage is “I Make Sure people like to go to Work on Mondays”. Where is that inspiration coming from? What are some strategies and advice you can share to those who are not so excited about it?

▶ Everything starts with your own attitude. You decide, whether your day will be good or bad. Reading above “It’s time to get s*** done!”, sends myself a signal, that there is s*** in my life. I never do s***. I only do great stuff!

Imagine, just half of the employees would love Monday. Imagine, how much this would change in terms of productivity, quality, togetherness, fun, innovation (continue this list). So, the attitude. My very first job was at Mercedes in Moscow, and it looked to me, that I was the only one who was excited to have this job. So I started a “Thanks God it’s Monday!” mailing every week, and after some months, I created a different attitude in our team. So, check your own attitude, then put it on others (your energy is contagious), and at the end of the day, the energy of other people helps you to feel good.

You work alone? Change your facial expression before you look into the mirror. You can affect your own attitude by just smiling for 3-5 minutes or making a power pose.

3. The life of an independent entrepreneur can be very dynamic. What do you do to make sure you are constantly focused on what matters most?

▶ Good question! I get distracted very fast because I get fascinated or excited about new stuff very fast. To stay focused I use three things:

✅ The visual connection to my WHY. I do use a set of self-made polaroid pictures with my most important life goals, which I shuffle before I start my day. Just pictures, no numbers or words. Visuals are actually very powerful, we forget that very often.

✅ Reminder (paper, sticky notes, digital calendar entries) for short term tasks. I know that every distraction costs me 23 minutes to get into deep concentration again, so phone off, emails off, focus!

✅ Group accountability in a mastermind group. Being not alone in what we are doing is great! Here we do regular calls, and every upcoming call reminds me to do what I promised in the last call. I also have a yoga accountability chat, where everyone just posts if she did sun salutations this morning. This reminds the rest of us to get on the mat immediately!

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My current set of visuals. I update it from time to time.

4. There are a lot of consultants / speakers / coaches in my network. From your experience – What would be your advice in terms of attracting great clients, the ones – that you enjoy working with, but can also afford you?

▶ I absolutely love Design thinking, because it forces me to walk in customers shoes. Many years I spent tons of time and money on selling my service instead of asking the customer: What is your real problem? So instead of searching for my niche or improving my SEO, I started to do a lot of co-creation, co-decision… Every workshop agenda, every keynote slide, is co-created, so all involved parties have “skin in the game” before the game starts. I even do it with 300 people conventions. Digital tools make it possible!

The second part of your question – having customers want me so much, that they pay me accordingly – was a very difficult topic for me for years. Until I found an inner voice which tells me, I want to create a maximum value every day in every context. To be able to do so, I started to learn, not just specific stuff in my “comfort zone”, everything what could bring additional value. I am beta tester for many tools and websites (I love technology!), read tons of articles and blogs (before they become books), discuss in forums, answer and ask questions in groups, visit barcamps and expensive education, meet many different people, try new things out (push myself out of the box), work with artists. I started snowboarding with 43, build an aircraft, started and gave up a startup, wrote a book. Right now I am running a Kickstarter campaign, and I can tell you, all these different experiences makes us – consultants, trainers, facilitators – more valuable for our customers as just our professional certificate.

5. Three quick tips how to get motivated, if you are feeling down or overwhelmed, but have to get things done anyhow?

📌 First, stand up from your chair or sofa and make a power pose. If you never did, watch the TED talk with Amy Cuddy and find your ultimate body expression for “I can do this!” There is no “IT”, that makes us feel overwhelmed. We DECIDE to feel that way. So we can decide for ourselves to feel different. Become the master of your brain, your feelings, your body.

📌Second, “eat the frog”. Whatever bothers you the most right now, do it first. Feel pain? That is your compass. More pain? Go there. If the topic looks too big, set you an alarm clock for 10-15 minutes and do not allow yourself to do something else besides the “frog” topic. After alarm rings, drink something you like (tea, coffee) and choose the next “frog”. Our fear to start fixing something unpleasant is mostly bigger than the issue, and the longer we wait, the bigger is the fear.

📌Third, use affirmations. I used to have many in the first months of my self employment, because I felt alone and unable to become a magnet for my business. I had notes everywhere in my apartment. In the fridge, in the socks drawer… Short visual reminder really helped me to believe in myself! My most preferred formulas are:

  • I have the power to … (whatever is on your list now)
  • Life is good.
  • I am enough.
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My “You look great today” reminder at the mirror I am passing by many times during the day.

[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?

Any book of Dale Carnegie

Napoleon Hill: Think and grow rich

Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum: Flashes of thought