Alexa Doman: “Consistency is key when asking yourself this”

Optimal performance can be helped by making conscious decisions on what work needs to be prioritized. I constantly ask myself: what will move the needle most? I focus my resources on what will create forward movement, rather than doing work for the sake of it. As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build […]

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Optimal performance can be helped by making conscious decisions on what work needs to be prioritized. I constantly ask myself: what will move the needle most? I focus my resources on what will create forward movement, rather than doing work for the sake of it.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexa Doman.

A British native living in Madrid, Spain, Alexa Doman is a dynamic and energetic career and life coach, who puts her clients in the driving seat to empower them to find their own motivation, priorities and clarity.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My childhood was really lovely. I’m a very lucky person who grew up in a loving family in beautiful Dorset, in the south of England. It was really amazing, but as I grew older and I started to learn about the big world out there, I started wanting more adventures. I remember being extremely excited the first time I went to London, seeing all these seemingly important people being “adult”. I really wanted to join them in that world.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My journey into being a life coach is not the most traditional. After four years working in the charity sector in London and having my heart broken, I decided I needed to start afresh. So I packed up my life and set off to volunteer with Burmese refugees on the Thai-Burmese border. It was an amazing experience, but what I took most from it were the daily walks I’d take through the village and the jungle to clear my head, and cry for my broken heart and very bruised ego. Toward the end of the five months there, I was a shinier, happier and stronger version of myself. And I started thinking about how lucky I was to have had the time and space to think, re-evaluate myself and my goals, and how I’d love to give that opportunity to other people. I just had no idea how. Until one day — I was talking with a friend about my idea for creating space and time for people who just needed to pause, take stock and redirect themselves, and they just said to me: “That’s what a life coach does.” My response: what’s a life coach?

After researching, speaking to people and going to my own life coach, there was no doubt in my mind not only the power of coaching, but my passion to pursue this as a career. I wanted and still want to help people who need a little hand-hold, support and a metaphorical push to get to the next part of their lives. Just like I had had in that Thai village.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My friends in Madrid have been particularly helpful. I’ve roped them into practice workshops, trial training sessions and made them attend some of my first in-person workshops on Saturday mornings! They continue to keep me inspired, because the better a coach I am, the more I can help them.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I wanted to deliver an in-person workshop. I was really excited about helping people to “prioritize priorities”. I hired a large venue, spent hours perfecting the content. But on the marketing, I barely spent any time. I just assumed people would know and would want to learn. Big mistake. Only two people (not including the pre-mentioned friends) came. I was devastated. My learning: don’t assume anything. And it’s no good having the best content in the world if no-one knows about it.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

My advice would be: go for it. Throw everything at it and, most importantly, keep throwing everything at it. I believe with all my soul that if we truly want something, we will get it. But that must be supported with our actions. The number of clients I have had who are desperate to change their career, and have been for a long time, who haven’t really got their CV up to scratch or haven’t been applying for jobs, is incredible. You have to support the want with action.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean is a firm favorite. I read it quite a few years ago, but I still refer to it both for professional and personal purposes. There are some really great ideas in there and it’s an accessible book with practical examples and real-life explanations on why habit change is so difficult.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I have so many. But it has to be Henry Ford’s “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” It’s all in the mindset. I love that. It puts the ball in your court. There are so many variables when it comes to life, family and business. But at the center of it all is what you think you can or can’t do and achieve.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I really want people to start to have the belief that they can see things from a different perspective, make changes and move toward their goals. To facilitate this, I’m creating a series of workshops, “From… to…”. The first workshop, “From motivation to action”, focused on how we need to be more realistic with our time and energy, and plan to do less. My next workshop is “From fear to growth”. I want this workshop series to help people take responsibility for actively working toward their goal and more importantly feeling that they can.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

If you look at most things, it all boils down to habits. From brushing your teeth to drinking water to looking before you cross the road. Good habits keep us safe and healthy, and here’s the obvious bonus. Because they are habits, we do this automatically; freeing up our brain to focus on other important tasks, such as decision-making.

Good habits help you support your goal. They provide a framework for your actions and a constant little reminder and boost that you’re on the right track. An example of this was with a client; their bad habit was that they were great at starting things, but never finishing them. They were exhausted, stressed and they had no focus, direction or results because of this bad habit.

Together, we worked on breaking that pattern. They created daily three-minute check-ins at the end of the day to ensure that if they went off focus, they could recognize it and pull themselves back. Now, they have a thriving online business and have moved to near the beach to live a calmer life.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

One of the most important habits I have is to plan. I know it’s not sexy or new. But it works. Every Friday afternoon, I have a board meeting with myself: to review what I’ve accomplished in the week, what I didn’t accomplish and what my following week needs to look like in order for me to achieve my goals. This is essential to the success of my business as I make sure that I have my priorities planned. They are the things that have to be worked on without fail. It feels so great to do this on a Friday, not only to close the week but it also ensures that when I start work on Monday I know exactly what I’m doing and I can keep focused.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

One of the best ways to develop good habits is to make it easy for yourself, as new habits are more likely to stick when we clear away the obstacles that stand in our way. I love the example that Dr Wendy Wood, a research psychologist at the University of Southern California, shared. She just wasn’t exercising enough, so to combat this she began sleeping in her running clothes to make it easier to roll out of bed in the morning, slip on her sneakers and run. That’s one of the reasons why I like to plan. By reviewing and planning my week on Fridays, Friday Alexa has made it easy for Monday Alexa to know what she is doing. So I’m much more likely to complete the priorities rather than answer unimportant emails.

Replacing bad habits with better habits is more likely to have longer-term success that going cold turkey. Want to stop phone-scrolling in bed? Plan to read a book instead, rather than just expect yourself to go straight to sleep.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

When it comes to wellness, we all have a tendency to put the things that keep us happy and healthy at the bottom of our to-do list. One way to keep the balance between work and non-work is to color-code electronic calendars. Personally, I have work-related things in blue, exercise in green and social activities in pink. It’s a really quick way of keeping track if I’ve got too much of one thing or nothing of another in my days and weeks.

In terms of performance habits, I recommend that after a meeting or presentation, make sure you have a quick self-evaluation. After every session, I religiously draw two columns on the back of my notes. In the first column, I put in three things that I did well. And in the second column, three things that I need to improve. This helps me not only identify and develop, but also recognize what I did well, because I’ll want to repeat that too.

To keep focused, I recommend breaking down and chunking tasks. This is a great way to create more focus. As the tasks are more manageable and less scary, you are more likely to do them rather than procrastinate. You can chunk either by task or by time frame. When I was creating my website, it was such a huge project. I was unmotivated and unfocused on finishing it. So I broke it down into smaller tasks. And for tasks that had no obvious division, I created time chunks of 45 minutes to focus work on that. Not only was I more focused, but I was more motivated, as I could see and feel the progress I was making.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Visual reminders for different activities in your calendars are one such practice to develop those habits. Visual such as putting your daily activities into different colors can remind you of the time and energy you are spending on the different areas of your life.

Evaluating your performance with the two columns method (three things to improve and three things that you did well) can be used after difficult conversations with your partner or children. Spend a couple of minutes just evaluating how you behaved in that situation.

Similar to the technique above, breaking down tasks and chunking them can be applied to other areas. Think of a large task or project and see if you can identify the different elements and how they might be managed in smaller pieces.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Optimal performance can be helped by making conscious decisions on what work needs to be prioritized. I constantly ask myself: what will move the needle most? I focus my resources on what will create forward movement, rather than doing work for the sake of it.

A few years ago, I was practicing my Spanish by listening to a podcast and I heard someone say: “Hecho es mejor que perfección.” Done is better than perfection. And that change in mindset really helped me. I regularly share this way of thinking with friends and clients.

Having mini mindfulness/mediation moments is another thing that is beneficial. These moments help to calm the mind and prepare ourselves to have more focus and therefore a higher level of performance in the next task.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

A practice I do that helps make sure I stay focused on moving the needle is coaching giant Brain Tracy’s idea of “eat the frog”. The idea is: if you don’t do the most important piece of work first, like a frog, that work you’re avoiding will distract you. By “eating the frog” and completing the most critical task first, you have more focus through the working day and can produce higher-quality work.

Perfection is a really strong block toward progress. People have put Post-its for themselves on their computers and fridges as well as set phone notifications in the mid-morning to remind them that it’s about progress, not perfection.

I do two-minute mindfulness bursts when I’m moving around in public. I concentrate on something visual in front of me, focusing on the textures, colors and shadows. And then I shift my focus to the furthest sound I can hear, then the closest sounds I can hear. I set a timer on my watch. And having this mini break makes me feel more energized and ready to perform every time.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

I was feeling really overwhelmed by having too many things to do, both personally and professionally. I felt I was spread too thin. I wasn’t showing up as the best person I could be. So I found the Jam Jar technique and modified it.

A useful habit is to consider your plan B to support the habit, so that when it is difficult for you to continue the habit 100%, you don’t completely fall off the wagon.

Another habit that helps to create focus is to ask yourself: does this action take me closer to the goal? This really helps you notice how often you are supporting your goal with your actions, as well as how often you are potentially moving away from your goal without previously realizing.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

I teach the Jam Jar technique in my workshops. The first step is to have a brain dump and write down all of the things that you have to do next week. You then envision the time you have in the week as a jam jar. You cannot make the jam jar any bigger. Then you split the tasks into three categories: truly important (relationships, health, family), very important (work, school) or “small stuff” (everything else). The truly important things are rocks. The very important things are pebbles. And the small stuff is sand. And you need to fill your jam jar with the tasks that you wrote down during the brain dump. Remember that if you put too many pebbles or too much sand in the jar, there is no room left for the rocks. This forces you to prioritize the important things and recognize that perhaps not everything needs to be completed next week.

A good practice to develop the plan B option is “if/when… then.” For example, if it’s raining and you don’t want to go for a run — you can do an online exercise class. Or when you want something sweet to eat, as you anticipated this, you have a banana and some peanut butter rather than that chocolate bar.

Consistency is key when asking yourself this. Whenever there is doubt in your decision, take a moment to ask yourself if this helps you move forward or not. The decision will then become clearer.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Time-blocking really helps me create the space both mentally and physically. I like to block out time for more complex tasks. I only create blocks of 45 minutes. If the task is larger, then it simply gets more blocks. But the key to the flow for me is creating a container of time. That mini deadline helps me get into flow quicker, as I know that the clock starts ticking as soon as that time block starts.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

What a question! I know that my movement would be for people to pause more. My time in Thailand and my walks were my pause; they are the reason why I do what I do. Because I want to help people take a moment, breathe and move forward consciously toward their goals.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Michael Jordan would be at my brunch buffet. His work ethic, focus and admission that it was the failures that made him greater are the reasons why he has to be there. I’ve used his quotes in my workshops and clients. He’s so iconic and strong, so to know that even he failed is a comfort but also a motivation, because you know that those failures ultimately made him the unbelievable player and businessman that he is. If you haven’t watched the Netflix documentary The Last Dance, about Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, put that on your priority list!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow my work on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, as well as subscribe to my bimonthly newsletter.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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