Hey everyone it’s Zainab here, welcome or welcome back to my blog! I’m super excited to bringing you guys another interview, this time I’m speaking with Grace Marshall who has 14 years experience in coaching in productivity and sharing advice with others. She chatted with me all about her ideology on productivity, avoiding burnout and her work. Let’s jump into it!
- INTRODUCTION ON GRACE
- GRACE’S BEGINNINGS IN PRODUCTIVITY
- GRACE’S PERSPECTIVE ON PRODUCTIVITY
- TECHNIQUES FOR FINDING HAPPINESS IN WORK
- GRACE’S WORK / BUSINESS
- GRACE’S IDEA OF SUCCESS
- GRACE’S TAKE ON BURNOUT
- GRACE’S ANNUAL AUGUST BREAK
- GRACE’S LINKS
INTRODUCTION ON GRACE
When we started our interview, I asked Grace to briefly explain the work she does, which I can imagine would’ve been quite difficult to keep brief as she has so many ventures! But, she created her productivity business 14 years ago, and often refers to her business as her ‘middle child’ as it was set up in the middle of having her two children. Along with her books, she mainly coaches and she shared that biggest problem her clients would face was that there was, ‘A lot to do, not enough time to do it!’ And that’s something she actually faces herself aswell as she describes herself as ‘naturally disorganised’ remarking that she often felt that ‘productivity picked me!’ rather than the other way around.
GRACE’S BEGINNINGS IN PRODUCTIVITY
With that history, I was keen to delve into her first encounter with productivity and how that influenced Grace into working in that field. Beginning her answer, she recalled that she was a straight A student in school and a typical people pleaser. Going back to the idea that Grace is naturally disorganised, in school she knew that there was enough structure in place to tell her when and what to do, but when she moved to University that was the first time in her life she realised that she had to get organised.
Grace actually spent two weeks of her life homeless, when she didn’t realise that she had to apply to stay on campus during University! And she wanted to share this background to convey that she was not always good at productivity, and she first needed it in her life as a necessity in order to get organised and learn – and learning is where a lot of her productivity came from, even now. As the person interviewing her, it was really comforting to hear that her productivity comes from learning experiences too – it was nice to know that it’s okay to learn and grow!
This background was super interesting to hear, and I wanted to know how she started a business about something that came as a necessity to her. Well, Grace studied International Management at University and ended up working in a very small start up after graduating. She described this as a, ‘cutting environment’ in which she described it as learning very quickly what you’re cut out for and what you’re not, challenging the people pleasing side of her! This is what she now calls her, ‘mid life crisis in her early 20s’ which triggered her to switch careers and end up in coaching, and through talking with clients she went into productivity as that was part of their biggest problems.
GRACE’S PERSPECTIVE ON PRODUCTIVITY
One thing that’s really unique about Grace is that she prides herself on the human perspective of productivity. She mentioned to me that sometimes productivity can be seen as an ‘extreme sport’ or even a ‘cult of productivity’ where you only do something for the sake of pursuing it. So Grace’s idea was to find out, ‘What’s this actually for?’ and to find out what the productivity is in service for. Because if you don’t do this, it can lead to: Perfectionism, Busyness and Burnout.
Grace shared that as human beings there’s something intrinsic about joy and satisfaction from work. But her perspective is finding out how we can engage in that in a way that allows us to get good results but also for ‘the experience of it to be good’
In the past, Grace has looked at productivity historically. She learned that in the time of Henry Ford (1800s) productivity was about efficiency but then as we moved into the 1900s, Peter Drucker focused on effectiveness rather than efficiency.
But for Grace, it goes a step further, which is experience of it. As Grace finds that this is the only way we can be sustainable in our productivity. A question she would ask herself to discover this was:
Am I doing work in a way that does me good as well as the good that I’m doing out there in the world?
When I asked her about why this was so vital, she described it as a ‘virtuous cycle.’ Feeling good about the work we do can benefit our wellbeing but then also gives us the motivation to do more, turning into a ‘joyful cycle.’ And she’s learned this from her experiences of being a perfectionist / straight A student, focusing less on perfectionism and more on what tools she has to ‘surf that workflow rather than drowning in it!’
One of Grace’s books, How To Be Really Productive, was offering a free chapter so I knew I had to dive in to read the start. And in this first chapter Grace mentioned 3 major values that helped with finding happiness with working which were: Meaning, Purpose & Joy. In her words, these 3 things help to give some ‘substance’ to your productivity. Purpose allows you to identify what you’re working towards, working without Meaning can give a sense of the work being empty or draining, and Joy makes the experience of work fulfilling.
TECHNIQUES FOR FINDING HAPPINESS IN WORK
Of course I wasn’t going to chat to Grace without asking for a technique that she could share, and she really brought the best ones forward! Grace is filled with these, each with their own quirky name and to fit a different purpose to finding happiness or avoiding stress.
She shared that one of her favourite yet simple things to do is to write herself a ‘Ta Da List!’ Which comprises with everything she has done in a day. The act of stopping, reviewing and reflecting to find a win really helps. Grace shared a statistic with me that stated that human beings have 3 times more positive experiences than negative ones, but we have a negative bias so it doesn’t always feel that way. So that negative experience can overshadow everything else, so Grace found that a Ta Da List balances out that perspective because you’re solely focusing on the good things. It can allow us to learn what we’ve done well so we can thrive, but can also just help with accountability on progress. Helping to further , as Grace says, ‘motivation and momentum!’
Later on in the interview, we went on to speak about burnout and recovering from it. That’s when Grace mentioned another one of her techniques called a Pick Me Up Playlist, which is another amazing concept and also solidified my hypothesis that she has quirky names for all her techniques! It’s simply noting down all the things that give you joy & energy that can help to recharge you – so then you have a menu to choose from!
GRACE’S WORK / BUSINESS
Grace’s business consists of her coaching clients as well as being an author of multiple widely read books focusing on productivity and other life challenges. When we spoke about coaching in particular, Grace said something that really stood out to me which:
Give yourself permission to explore
This is such a simple statement made by Grace, but one that’s so eye-opening to so many people. Grace did this personally when making her career switch to coaching, and now in her coaching sessions she encourages clients to treat the session ‘like a treasure hunt’ in order to discover some insight into what their next step is. And as a coach, Grace isn’t just about giving answers she says it’s about, ‘enabling them to be the expert in their life’ to create a space to explore.’ I think this is so reminiscient of her productivity ideology but is also a good reminder for us (me and you) that we should give ourselves the chance to explore and be okay with that, so we can find out what gives us our joy when being productivity.
After Grace discovered new things from working with clients for a while, she received the opportunity to write her first book. She’s written 3 since then: 21 Ways To Manage The Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time, How To Be Really Productive and Struggle. Yet, Grace thinks that she’ll always be a coach at heart and always wants to help people create the space to explore.
GRACE’S IDEA OF SUCCESS
Going back to what I mentioned earlier about the free chapter of Grace’s book, she made a very bold statement towards the end of the chapter about success.
Success is something you do, not something you have
HOW TO BE REALLY PRODUCTIVE
Grace acknowledged that most of the time, we see success as the outcome but actually we should take into account everything we’ve done leading up to that. From a productivity perspective, doing success means that you have more control over your success. Defining success in this very ‘tangible way’ can help you to see the building blocks and see success in the ‘doing’ rather than just the outcome.
Again, there was something really sympathising about this perspective on success. Grace really changed my perspective, and as someone who has public exams this year, listening to Grace was so impactful and I think she really helps everyone access a growth mindset in terms of success and how it’s a journey. One of Grace’s latest books: Struggle, has a really thought provoking quote about this.
Success is a labyrinth. Detours, dead ends, doorways, discoveries. We find our way; we lose our way. Along the way we discover guardians, teachers, tricksters, allies, mysterious keys and potent powers
GRACE’S TAKE ON BURNOUT
When I asked Grace to talk around the subject of burnout, I knew that it was going to be quite challenging as it’s now very prominent in our modern day society. In her words, ‘We never had it to this degree 20 or 40 years ago’ and she’s right. She did share with me some theories behind what may have caused it.
One thing being we now have an increase in abundance and choice, which can result in ‘Never feeling like you’re enough, there’s always more we can be doing.’ That’s why she always advises people to start with enough, when it comes to productivity, because if we feel like we don’t have enough it becomes an ongoing journey; turning into perfectionism. Because now,
The nature of our society is always more
But the key point she wanted me, and you, to take from this is that there isn’t more of you. Which can lead to stretching ourselves too much and burning out. Once that stage has been reached, she wanted to be clear that this can look different for different people – some having very clear effects (perhaps even physical symptoms) and some more subtle (which is the case for a lot of people). She prefers to refer to the latter as a ‘functioning burnout’ as it’s as if you can still function and work, but you’ve lost the joy in it. And as we’ve spoken about earlier in this interview, joy plays a central role in Grace’s productivity ideology!
For young people in particular, Grace went into quite a lot of detail at sharing the neurology behind it. When we complete a task and tick something off, we have a dopamine hit – and this is the chemical that can cause addiction. Kind of creating an addiction at getting things done, and when you’re young you can constantly be told that you have loads of potential and having this alongside the idea of abundance and choice can also lead to a burnout through the newfound addiction of getting things done and trying to make the right choice to reach that potential. But Grace also wanted to emphasise that this is also apparent in adults as well.
GRACE’S ANNUAL AUGUST BREAK
Something really unique about Grace is that every year she decides to take the month of August off from work. That’s actually the reason why this interview is being released now instead of the summer when I first spoke to Grace! I was super keen to hear about why she made this decision, as I’d never heard of anyone taking an entire month off from their work. When I asked her about this she let me in on her thought process.
Which was that if she recognised that she was constantly working, the quality of her work would deteriorate and she couldn’t come up with her best ideas. One thing that Grace explored in her book Struggle was that most natural phenomenons have cycles: seasons, hibernation, planting etc! But constant cycles can sometimes lose rhythm, and Grace wanted to restore that sense of rhythm in her work. This gave Grace her stopping point to rest & recover to fuel her her creativity and was also beneficial to her accountability and momentum.
When I asked her how someone who isn’t self employed to do this, she reminded me of the importance of actually recharging. Sometimes we can have time off, but we end up transferring all that working energy into new jobs such as house chores – and that’s not really resting. Her solution, of course, was choosing something from the Pick Me Up Playlist that we discussed previously in this interview. Doing something that can give you energy and joy, big or small, can make such a difference!
I had such an amazing experience speaking to Grace, all her advice and thoughts were so interesting – and I hoped you enjoyed this as much as I did! Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned from Grace and how you liked this new interview format. If you’d like to get in contact with Grace, just check out her links that I listed previously!
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