#LoveTheBoss: Productivity Ninja, Grace Marshall

Grace MarshallHi Grace, do tell us something about you by way of introduction.  How long have you worked for yourself? And something readers may not know about you.

I’m Grace Marshall, mum to Oliver & Catherine, aged 8 and 4, and my business is nearly 6 years old, so that makes it my middle child. I’m head coach, chief encourager & productivity ninja at Grace-Marshall.com, singer, foodie, runner and naturally disorganised person!

And your business. What’s it all about?

I run a coaching and training business, specialising in time and productivity, helping busy time jugglers to make the most of the time they do have, rather than trying to ‘find more time’

I work with individuals, mainly business owners, who are juggling business, family and other commitments. As a Productivity Ninja, I run training workshops in businesses, charities, universities and public sector organisations to help people develop ways of working with less stress and overwhelm, and more playful productive momentum.

I’m based at home, at my kitchen table, meeting coaching clients over Skype or telephone, or at a local coffee shop. Workshops usually take me out and about across the Midlands and occasionally beyond.

My current aims are to grow the business to a level where I can match my husband’s contribution to the family income, to give him the space to make some choices about his next career move.

My hopes and dreams are to spark a revolution in how we see and use time. So many brilliant, talented, passionate people are held back by ‘not enough time’ – I’d love to see more of that brilliance, talent and passion released into the world now, rather than keep waiting for that ‘perfect time’.

What did you struggle with most in your start-up phase, and how did you crack that?

All the usual stuff – getting started, getting known, getting clients.

I qualified as a life coach, ready to work with anyone on anything. That’s a useful coaching skill to have, but a nightmare to market as a business. It took me a while to crack my ‘niche’ and that was definitely a process rather than a one-off revelation. For me it definitely wasn’t something I picked – in fact, as a naturally disorganised person who struggles with timekeeping, I would never have picked ‘time management’ as my thing.

Instead it was a journey of exploration. Trying things, experimenting, seeing how they fit, focusing on what’s right in front of me, taking it one baby step at a time, and seeing where those steps take me. Sometimes those steps would take me down a rabbit hole and to a dead end. I’ve tried plenty of things that haven’t worked and done lots of U-turns along the way. It takes time to know what you want to do, to figure out what works, and to realise what you bring to the table. And it’s a journey of continual discovery.

I started working with entrepreneurs juggling business and family, and found that their biggest challenge was “Too much to do, not enough time, how do I fit it all in?” Answering that question, one client at a time, and working through it myself, is what sparked my passion for productivity. The more I delved into it, the more I realised it’s not so much about managing time, and more about what you do with your energy, attention, mindset, motivation, choices and habits – and those are areas I do have some expertise in.

It’s a scary and exciting time at the moment. I feel like I’ve finally set my roots and that I am standing up for what I want to be known for, going for more high profile speaking and writing opportunities which scare the pants off me.

This series of interviews is designed to inspire others, mainly women, on the same path. What tips would you share with them which would short-cut their journey to happiness being their own boss? 

Don’t wait till you feel confident. That comes after you’ve done it. Take the action first.

I remember the first time I was asked to be interviewed as a ‘productivity expert’. My imposter syndrome was in full force – Who am I to be doing this? Who do I think I am? Any minute now, I’m going to get found out…

I didn’t wait for that voice to go away – impatience in this case was my virtue. I heard the voice and carried on taking baby steps anyway. I did the interview, and many more, I recorded videos, held webinars, answered questions and eventually wrote and published a book.

Every step of the way, that voice has been there. When I sent my book manuscript to the publishers I held my breath. When I asked a time management author to endorse my book, I thought he was going to come back and tell me it was a load of rubbish (he loved it, and we now work together!) When I launched the book, I wondered if anyone would buy it, if it was too short, too simple. As it turned out, it became an Amazon UK bestseller in three categories including time management. And short and sweet is precisely the reason why people love it.

I think we will always have plenty of reasons ‘why not’. Reasons why we shouldn’t. Why it won’t work. Why we’re not good enough. That voice never goes away. Just focus on what matters. In my case, it was helping people – simple as that. So long as someone is asking I’ll do what I can to help. And as long as people are finding it helpful, I’ll carry on.

What have you learned about yourself while working solo?

That I’m at my best when I’m working with people. When I got my 40 day book deadline someone asked me if I was going to lock myself away in a cupboard. I can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but I know that actually my best ideas come in conversation, and I’m always at my most productive when I’m publicly accountable. So I created my own 40 Days of Baby Steps group, coaching clients through their 40 day project while I walked my talk right alongside them.

I also know that I can be really indecisive – often with things that don’t really matter. So working with my own coach and accountability partners helps to keep me from sinking too far into the depths of my brain where I can’t see the wood for the trees.

I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I am not good at everything, that just because I ‘can’ doesn’t mean I should. There are other people who love doing the things I struggle with, who thrive in that department and will do a marvellous job if I let them. If I let other people do what they can do, I can do what only I can do.

Most of all I’ve learned to embrace imperfection. As I tell my clients, imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time. I still kick myself when I make mistakes, but I’m learning not to dwell on them. The idea of ‘failing well’ is something I’ve been learning to embrace.

Did you choose self-employment or did it choose you? 

Bit of both. I had a mid-life crisis in my mid-twenties. I chose a career break and decided to start a family first. After the initial shock of parenting I decided to retrain as a life coach, then realised that there are very few jobs that employ you to be a coach, so I set up in business.

What one encouraging thought sums it all up?

You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step – and that’s the beauty of it. There’s no right or wrong path. We get to create the journey as we go. A successful life is created by day to day successful living, and it’s up to us to decide each day what that looks like for today.

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like readers to know about, Grace? 

Grace Marshall's bookI’m running my 40 Days of Baby Steps again, starting 6th January.

If there’s something you’ve been putting off, or a crazy deadline you need to meet, this is your opportunity to get that thing done, without putting life on hold, in baby steps that sneak past overwhelm and procrastination, with the accountability and company of a fun, supportive and encouraging group.

And you can find my book here: 21 Days to Manage the Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time

Do you feel lonely and isolated when working for yourself? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you get your social needs met? What do you recommend to others in this regard?

I’m an extrovert – I am energised and inspired by people. A networking meeting or a client call is one of the best ways of starting the week for me. Having a deadline in someone else’s world also works wonders. And I learn best when I’m with people, so 1-1 coaching and group workshops work much better than self-study.

I’m also married to an introvert so I understand the importance for introverts to have time to think and time to recharge. And I do need time alone too, especially when it comes to writing and planning. So making sure I have a rhythm that allows for both is vital for my momentum.

The key is knowing how you recharge, and making that happen as a fundamental need, not a luxury.

Grace, thanks so much for being here today. How can we become your fans and followers?

I’m on Twitter: @GraceMarshall

And on Facebook.com/gracemarshallcoaching

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