5 tips for creative ease in a whirlwind work environment

Yesterday, I got back from an 8 day journey across the country. Not only did I have a multi-city stop, but I had a very different work mix in each city.

Asheville was a mastermind retreat for my wonderful entrepreneur clients, where we dug intensively into audience definition and market positioning. My best friend Desiree Adaway was also leading a retreat of her men’s mastermind, so we had a joint session with Susan Baier around audience segmentation, and really enjoyed getting to know each other.
Cincinnati involved teaching a workshop on Quiet Leadership for a large corporate client. (This is part of my ongoing consulting with Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution, which is launching online next month). I taught brilliant research scientists from a large company how to appreciate the natural strengths of introverts, as they innovate on mixed teams.

Photo credit: Haseeb Turiq 
 In San Jose, I organized and led a panel for The Small Business Web on how to build a strong community of customers, partners, fans and supporters, with bestselling author Guy Kawasaki, Chief Branding Officer Cliff Worley from Shark Branding (Shark Tank Daymond John’s company) and Marketing Director David Potter from Citrix.
Each of these events required a quite different mix of skills and experiences (what I call “ingredients” in Body of Work):
  • Running a retreat required listening, marketing and branding knowledge, strategic thinking and empathy
  • Delivering a complex curriculum required focused preparation and research, advanced presentation skills, partnership with technical experts and humility
  • Running a panel involved relationship building (to invite the right people, and have them say yes), facilitation and storytelling


These may seem like extremely different activities, but I see them as part of my larger mission: to build skills and build communities so that we collaborate on solving our most pressing problems.


In today’s quickly changing world of work, you likely face a similar array of different projects on a weekly basis.

Here are my 5 tips for creative ease in a whirlwind work environment:

  1. Love the one you are with.
    When I was preparing for this trip, I started to freak out a little when I saw how different each project was. At the end of the first day of my retreat in Asheville, I started to think ahead to the complex workshop in Cincinnati in 3 days. But I immediately pulled myself back to the retreat at hand, and only allowed myself to worry about day to of the event.

    I cannot tell you how many times this tip has greatly reduced my anxiety when facing huge project deadlines.

    Anxiety Pam: “OMG, I have six chapters to write in my book in the next three months, that is impossible!” 

    Love the one you are with Pam: “Right now, you are looking into the eyes of paragraph one of chapter one. Make her feel she is the only chapter in the world, Slim!”

    This is how huge projects get accomplished.

  2. Put your ingredients on the counter before you start cooking your next recipe.

    As you shift from one project to the next, clarify which of your ingredients are going to be most important. You may have just used some serious humor and empathy to help clients through a brainstorming session about their new brand, but these ingredients will not help a room full of smart scientists. 

    Consciously choose the skills and experiences that you need to use for each project. Sometimes this means significantly shifting your approach to the work (in California, we call it “changing your energy”).

  3. Organize and separate your projects.

    It can get very chaotic if you are working on different projects at the same time, each which include notes and research. Use different colored folders for paperwork that relates to each project. Create an organized file structure on your computer so that you have folders for each project instead of random documents all over your desktop.

    When I travel with multiple projects, I make sure to keep notes and papers in separate folders. This makes sure I don’t pull out notes ideas for my coaching clients when I am trying to get ready for my software development conference.

  4. Be sure your self pep talks include “how.”

    I heard a tip from Daniel Pink at South by Southwest that worked beautifully on this trip. He told the story of a research project that he conducted on his National Geographic show “Crowd Control.” Most of us (life coaches especially) are used to giving ourselves motivational speeches (in front of a mirror or in the toilet stall) before heading into a stressful work situation, like a presentation. It usually goes something like this:

    Panicked Pam, channeling Stuart Smalley: “You can do it, you are good enough, smart enough and doggonit, people like you!”

    What Dan and the research suggests, is that it is much more effective to include a “how” in the pep talk, and tell yourself exactly how you will walk through your challenging situation.

    Panicked Pam channeling Dan Pink: “You may be scared about presenting in front of these smart scientists, but this is how you are going to do it: You will do a Power Pose that you learned from Amy Cuddy 2 minutes before going on stage. You will follow your carefully prepared workshop outline. You will rely on your colleague in the room to handle challenging technical questions. You will breathe, and you will only worry about getting to the first morning break (see “Love the One You Are With”).

  5. Take time to anchor gratitude.

    When you complete each individual project, be sure to take the time to express gratitude for yourself, the people you worked with, and the creative outcomes of the project. This avoids our tendency to rush from one project to the next, without truly seeing the wonder of the creative experience. You want to anchor the positive rush in your body from facing a challenge and walking through it with strength and focus.

We are capable of creating so much. We don’t have to live in a binding niche. But we do have to know ourselves, and how to find the thread that ties our work together.

Want some help with your plan for the second half of 2015? Check out Indispensable Summer Program, which starts on June 1. Registration ends May 27. Details here: http://pamelaslim.com/training/indispensable-summer-2015/

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