‘If you ask people do they have a plan for the week, do they know where they need to be, do they know the clients that they’ll be meeting, they’ve prepared for that… Then you say, “What are you going to have for lunch?” And they go, “What?”‘
Most of us know exactly what we should be eating, few of us are actually eating it. Too often we fuel our working day with a quick-fix mix of carbs and caffeine, without realising the price we’re paying in fatigue, poor decision-making and low productivity.
When Productivity Ninja Graham Allcott started working with wellbeing expert Colette Heneghan, he was astonished at the impact on his energy and output. Together they’ve written the book for everyone who wants to give themselves an unfair advantage at work. In this episode we talk about things-on-toast, finding the gap, writing with a co-author, and beating the blank page.
Optimum Living: https://www.optimumliving.co.uk/
Work Fuel: http://workfuel.ninja/
Colette on Twitter: https://twitter.com/coletteheneghan
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
This Book Means Business – the mentorship programme: https://alisonjones.lpages.co/this-book-means-business-mentorship/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club Summer Reading List 2019: https://alisonjones.com/the-extraordinary-business-book-club-summer-reading-list-2019/
Alison Jones: Hello, and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club – I’m here with Colette Heneghan, who is a peak performance and nutrition coach with extensive experience working with some of the world’s largest tech companies as well as with professional sports players and teams. She’s designed, managed and delivered successful high-impact health and well-being programmes across the world, ensuring people thrive not just survive in these competitive and challenging roles and industries that we’re all facing these days. She’s the author along with Graham Allcott who, of course, is a previous guest, of Work Fuel: Boost Performance. Improve Focus. Eat Your Way to Success. So, welcome to the show, Colette.
Colette Heneghan: Thank you, Alison. Really excited about speaking to you.
Alison Jones: It’s really good to talk to you. I love that last little bit of the subtitle, Eat Your Way to Success. That’s just ace isn’t it? Tell me a little bit about how the idea came about, and how you worked with Graham in particular.
Colette Heneghan: Okay. Yes. So, I work with … Let me start with Graham. So, I am a coach, and I work with performance and nutrition within organisations as you just said and sports teams. Graham and I had come across each other before. We’d done some collaboration work with some of our joint clients. So, Graham knew very well kind the kind of work that I was doing. He came to a point where he actually wanted some support himself. It was winter time. He was very low in energy and mood. He just gave me a call out of the blue, and said, “Can you help me with these things? I am the Productivity Ninja, but my energy is really low, and I feel like there’s something I can do with my diet.” So, we decided to work together and collaborate on that. So, I became his coach.
Alison Jones: And was there indeed something he could do with his diet? What was Graham Allcott eating before you started working with him? Tell us. Nobody is listening. Just tell me.
Colette Heneghan: Yes, no one is listening, exactly. So I can tell you the full truth. So, there was, obviously, most of think we’re doing a decent job with our diet. I speak to people, “Oh, I’m not doing too bad.” What I got Graham to do was actually at the start just start sending me pictures of what he was eating. So, even before I gave him a plan of the things he should be including, I just wanted to see how he was living, the times he was eating, if he was skipping meals, which occasionally would happen. Because he was that kind of person that says, “If I could swap eating for a pill, and then I could be more productive, I don’t have to spend the time then prepping food or eating it. That’s what I would do.” So, he was-
Alison Jones: Oh. My goodness! That’s a bloke thing. Isn’t it? My husband’s like that.
Colette Heneghan: Yes. It was the opposite … the complete opposite of enjoying the food and seeing it as a real bonus to your working day versus it being a cost to the working day. So, that was Graham’s kind of opening lines. So, I said, “Let me see what you’re doing.” So, we looked at his food diary. We used WhatsApp which is a great tool to visually see at certain times. I have to tell you that there was a lot of stuff on toast, Alison. That was his favourite side dish. He’s done quite well on toast. He’s founded it a global business, written best selling books.
Alison Jones: You know. I have to admit toast features quite heavily in my diet, I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes only toast will do.
Colette Heneghan: Well, I’ve got nothing against toast. It’s just when it’s like a food group for you that it’s more worrying. Yes. Absolutely. So, what we set about was to try, and add colour in and start to really change the dynamic of his food, working specifically on those things of energy and also his mood specifically. So, lifting that alongside it. So, the plate started to change. It was gradual at first. Just a little handful of tomatoes added to maybe the toast and egg, which is a start. Then, it just started to get better and better. Even the presentation of it did as well, which really surprised me because I didn’t actually expect to necessarily see that with somebody at the start had said, “Definitely not a foodie. Not interested in food prep and all that kind of stuff. So, that’s not me.” I think these kind of changes within your diet, once you get a boost from something, once you start to feel the effects, it kind of builds itself. I say it feeds itself, which is a bit of a pun, obviously. It does. When you do one thing consistently, the next thing just naturally falls in.
Alison Jones: That’s so interesting.
Colette Heneghan: So, that’s how Graham and I started to work together. For Graham, a light came on that has never gone off since. This was a few years ago now. In terms of – he’s never compromised again on his food. He’s never gone backwards because he realised the value. Then, he wanted to share it with the whole team. So, I went and worked with his team. The concept of bringing productivity and food together, because the way I thought of about food and the way he thought about productivity were both quite similar because of our backgrounds. I’m also from a corporate background, not necessarily from a nutrition/medical background. I was always looking at ways to make it action-oriented, and for people to really understand the ‘why’ to do it.
Alison Jones: That’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about, actually, because I think it’s really interesting the way that… the food-business hook up, as soon Graham told me about the book, and as soon as I think about it, it’s blindingly obvious that there was going to be a connection between how you eat and how you perform and how you feel and your level of productivity and whether you can sustain your focus for the whole day, it’s kind of obvious, and yet, there’s nothing out there about it. Until you wrote Work Fuel, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book that specifically talked about the impact of what you eat on how you work.
Colette Heneghan: Absolutely. Well, as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing quite like Work Fuel. That was my reason even before Graham and I collaborated and got together on it. Because I would run workshops and masterclasses within large corporates, and, ultimately, at the end of it, people would say, “Oh. This has been great today. Is there a possibility of buying a book that could help support what you discussed?” And I’d say, “Um. There’s a few that you could read, and then together, collectively, you’ll get a good … it will help you.” But it was never one.
So, that’s where it really came from for me was that I couldn’t just hand somebody something that would just really underpin the principles that we had spent a day working on. I realised you can’t get to everybody through masterclasses and workshops and coaching in that environment. There’s a lot of people missing out on this that really needed it.
Alison Jones: Yes. It’s so interesting, and of course, the book can then scale it. When you start from that premise, when you start from people saying, “Is there a book about this that I can read?” and you have to tell them, “No…” That’s a really good place to start writing a business book from isn’t it? Because you know there’s a need there.
Colette Heneghan: Yes. Exactly. You’ve done your market research. You have years of being asked the same question. So, that was great. We really knew that people needed this. Once we came up with the concept, we started just speaking to our friends and colleagues that were working in a similar way to what Graham was, and also me in the past as well. Because my story is that I had another career, and I did these things the wrong way and suffered the consequences. So, it’s very much coming from a position of non-patronising, humble, and saying, “I did it the wrong way, I want less people to do that going forward. I’ve now found a right way, and I have such …” Well, a better way rather than right because I don’t thing there’s right/wrong kind of thing, but a better way that you can work with. I feel so much better. My life is really, really action packed. It’s not that I’ve suddenly got this life with all these gaps. I have a really busy life that’s great, but I manage to fuel that through food now in a different way than I did before.
So, I think people kind of hooked onto that, that it wasn’t kind of another food book that had a beautiful maybe female on the front holding a blender or a green juice or … No. I think that’s really nice on your coffee table, but it never goes into your briefcase. It’s not something you relate to working day the next day.
Alison Jones: That two-way relationship between the work and the food, I thought was really interesting because, obviously, the thrust of the book is about the way that what you eat affects how you work. Actually, what you’ve done in the book is really clever because you brought work principles and specifically you brought the Productivity Ninja way into how you eat. So, the planning is an obvious example. You’re saying to people, “Look. You’ve got these skills in your work that you just don’t think about when you’re thinking about how you eat.” It’s that two-way synergy that I thought was really interesting.
Colette Heneghan: Yes. That’s it. So, if you ask people at the beginning of the week do they have a plan for the week, do they know where they need to be, do they know the clients that they’ll be meeting, how they prepared for that, they’ve probably got their meetings prepped. They’ve got some work, some reading prepped. Then, you say, “What are you going to have for lunch?” Then, they go, “What?”
Alison Jones: “Dunno. Toast?”
Colette Heneghan: “I don’t even know if I’m going to stop for lunch today because it’s actually really busy. So, what I’ll do, I’ll probably just fly by the office canteen and just grab something and take it to my meeting.” You’re like, “Okay, you got all this stuff planned and prepped, and yet, the most important thing, which is you and your brain, there’s no plan for those things. Those are the things that are actually going to carry you and ensure that you’re brilliant for the rest of the week.” So, Yes, absolutely, just getting people to think about taking care of themselves in the same way that they take care of business day to day.
Alison Jones: There’s going to be a whole lot of people listening to this going, “Doh.”
Colette Heneghan: I know.
Alison Jones: That’s really interesting. Let’s talk about the writing. Let’s move on from the whole ‘what we eat’ thing, and … swiftly, and talk about the writing thing because I always find it interesting when people write together. Obviously, you and Graham have got that beautifully complementary skill set. You’d obviously worked together for a long time as well. I love the WhatsApp thing by the way. It’s an ingenious use of technology. How was it writing together? Was it half the work or double the work?
Colette Heneghan: Yes. That’s actually an interesting one. It was my first book, so it was a lot of work. I don’t know if was more work-
Alison Jones: “That’s all I know, it was a lot of work …”
Colette Heneghan: …more work or not. Was it harder? He actually said that … we wanted it to be a joint voice. We didn’t want kind of conflicting things, or you could tell that it jumped from one person to the next. We wanted it to be a strong dual voice of both of us. So, there was, obviously, probably actually time spent blending that and ensuring that we were in agreement. If there were any absolutes that we didn’t want there, then we needed to be clear on those. So, I guess there was some actual time spent there. For me, it was having that accountability. So, having somebody else that you’re writing with and you’re speaking with regularly. If you’ve not actually worked on what you said that you were going to work on, it really does motivate you to do it because you, obviously, don’t want to let them down. This is exactly the same within the accountabilities that we tried to build within the book as well. That’s why WhatsApp is a great, great tool to keep on track of things and work in that way. So, yes.
Alison Jones: So, there’s a real parallel actually between setting yourself up for success as a writer and setting up success as a fuelie, what … as a successful eater? I don’t think of myself as an eater, but maybe I should.
Colette Heneghan: That’s a really good point because if you look at one of … Chapter One of Work Fuel is the Work Fuel Way. We have these nine essentials. It’s kind of like a philosophy, an approach versus kind of rules. One of the-
Alison Jones: That’s where I got the fuelie from of course, be a fuelie.
Colette Heneghan: Yes. Fuelie. Yes. You do. Yes. Yes. You don’t have to be a foodie. I would say Graham is … Graham still said he’s not, but I say he’s more of a foodie now than he dares to admit because he thinks about it, and it is part of his plan. I think he has more joy in it than he’s letting on…. Yes. So, he’s a fuelie now. He looks at food and see that it’s going to feed him properly, or what’s going to be the next best thing that he can do that day to kind of feel good.
One of the principles within those nine essentials is consistency versus intensity. For me, that really resonates with writing too. So, doing something most days was better than me thinking, “Oh. I’m going to spend nine hours writing today,” or 12 hours. So, whether I got up in the morning and just spent a few hours, and then I could kind of reward myself with going out and going for a walk, or going to see some friends for a cup of tea or doing something different, then that was very much the way that it unravelled. I think, it’s “you can’t edit a blank page,” was a quote that somebody said to me at the start. That really resonated. Even if the ten sentences that I wrote were no good, at least I could edit them and do something with them versus not doing anything.
So, consistency versus intensity.
Alison Jones: That’s such a great point about just getting something out onto the page. Yes. Terrific. One of the problems that you face, of course, is that when you work with Graham, when you work with anybody, you’re working directly with them, and you’re responding to what they’re doing, and there’s that kind of interpersonal energy between you. When you’re writing a book, that, it’s just not there. Of course, the benefit is that you can scale as you say, and you can get these principles out to people, but how do you go about compensating for or translating the kind of the energy that you would normally have in the relationship and the trust that you build up into text on the page?
Colette Heneghan: This was definitely something that I had a challenge with at the start, I have to say. I realised that I was this talker. So, my work is talking. Like you say, having that interaction whether it’s with one to many or one to one, but having an interaction with life or the life people not with a page. So, I remember starting and thinking, “I haven’t got anything to say on this subject.” I’d just spent the past eight years coaching, and working with all these people-
Alison Jones: That’s hilarious.
Colette Heneghan: -and I had nothing to say. Then, I’m like this chatterer that if you get me on the topics of these things you could just leave me. I’d just carry on talking about them without any prompts. So, I was like, “What’s going on?” What I ended up doing was two things. One, I recorded a whole workshop that I delivered. Just the voice side of it, the sound. Then, I started just to record my voice at different points just using a voice memo on the phone. So, as the ideas came in, I started to record the voice because that’s what I do, I speak most of the time. That really helped me kind of architect some of the key points I wanted to get across. That’s how I started.
Alison Jones: Again, that’s the principle of the blank page. Isn’t it? It just starts and whether that’s spoken word or written word or whatever, as long as you sit there going, “Well, I don’t know what to say,” you’re going nowhere. You’re stuck in neutral. As soon as you start moving and literally actually start moving, I don’t know about you, but I always find I start thinking as soon as I start going for a run or something. Then something starts coming, once it starts coming, you’ve got momentum, you’ve got energy, and you’re in a much better position.
Colette Heneghan: Definitely. I think that’s it. I don’t sit and do this work. I’ve stood normally. Because most of my work is actually one-to-many now. Suddenly, I was just sat at a desk with just me and the computer.
Alison Jones: Energy just ebbs out of you. Doesn’t it?
Colette Heneghan: Yes. When I stand, I change, and actually, all my voice recording is just like you actually, done on the move.
Alison Jones: Yes. I know you got Graham standing at his desk now, haven’t you? I know there was a bit in the book he was saying, “I’m writing this at my standing desk.” You think differently.
Colette Heneghan: Yes. You do. You do think differently. If you change your physiology, you can change your actual thought processes as well. Sometimes to create this ‘out of the box’ thing, okay, we have to get out of the box. So, that may be out of the office that we sat in now, or you just getting out to the sky. That’s where if you ever ask people where great ideas come from, it’s never when they’ve just been sat down for hours. Is it? It’s always-
Alison Jones: It’s never … nothing good ever happens when you’ve been sat in a room for hours, which does make you wonder about Westminster politics sometimes.
Colette Heneghan: Worryingly so. Doesn’t it? Yes.
Alison Jones: Yes. Yes. So-
Colette Heneghan: I’d love to feed them properly.
Alison Jones: See what they’re eating. I’ve bet they’ve got platters of sandwiches and biscuits.
Colette Heneghan: Everything beige, I would say has been delivered to the office. I’d just love to get some vibrancy into them and getting their brains properly fuelled for a change rather than… they all seem very tired at the moment.
Alison Jones: Yes. We should understand. There’s a PhD in there somewhere. Isn’t there? Going back to that point about translating how you are with people onto the page. You’ve given us some really, really practical tips about how you got started, how you overcame that kind of initial, “I don’t have nothing to say,” kind of moment which we all relate to. As you went on, what kind of techniques or tricks did you discover? What really worked for you in terms of capturing that energy and that structure and that tone of voice on the page?
Colette Heneghan: So, I actually employed some of Graham’s techniques.
Alison Jones: That’s only fair. Isn’t it?
Colette Heneghan: Yes. Yes. It goes both ways, the productivity side of things. I remember when we worked together at the start, a technique that I picked up was working in focused dashes. So, attention management ultimately. So, if you focus for so many minutes, and you just tell the brain that it only has to focus on the one thing for so many minutes, then that’s more kind of achievable, and you can sell that to yourself. Know that you’re going to get a break at the end of it. So, for me, I have an extensive tea cupboard. I love making a cup of tea whether that be a matcha tea or just the usual home brew or if it’s kind of one my lovely herbal teas or something. That for me was a reward.
I was actually using the Pomodoro Technique.
Alison Jones: Oh. I love that. Love it. Love it. Love it.
Colette Heneghan: So, 25 minutes, everything else will be off. I’d be offline. The page … 25 minutes. I wasn’t even allowed to go on the internet because I’m a rabbit warren person. If I go on the internet to research something, then that would be another Pomodoro. I can’t do that with the WiFi gone. Yes. So, 25 minutes, then knowing that I have these five minutes to go get some fresh air just at the back of my house or make a cup of tea. Then, I would do another 25 minutes. That’s really how I broke it down.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. I love that it was a two-way process. It seems entirely appropriate given what we’ve just been talking about. So, you haven given us loads of tips that … I’m being really greedy, but if there was this sort of your one best tip for a business book author who has just setting out, maybe they haven’t done this before, and they haven’t got Graham Alcott working alongside them to help them, unfortunately, for them. What would be your best tip for them?
Colette Heneghan: I think I’ve actually got two. So, sorry there’s going to be two more. So, if you haven’t got a Graham’s, if you haven’t got a co-author that’s brilliant and supportive, then get somebody else that will do the same job. Someone that you’re accountable to. So, whether that be somebody that’s already written a book, or somebody that’s just going to check in because we know for a fact that what we tend to do more things, be more motivated when we are accountable to somebody else, ultimately. I think that’s-
Alison Jones: Or a book coach or a hands-on publisher, I might just like to chuck in there. Yes, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
Colette Heneghan: Exactly. Exactly. So, I think that’s a great investment to get somebody that’s going to do that job with you. So, that’s priceless.
The second thing is post-its. So, I have a big wall in my office, and what I did with Graham at the start, was actually just put together the book in post-its. These words were just words that came off the top of my head at the time. They weren’t kind of well researched or rehearsed saying that that’s definitely what we’re going to do or write about. It was just a rough plan. These post-its got moved around all the time. One of the most amazing things was just to take it off the wall and go, “I’ve written about that now. I’ve actually recorded it.” You can take it off, and you can go, “I’ve done it.” It feels so great. The post-its started to get less and less. It was really rewarding because it was like all the salient points that I’d got from all those voice memos, from the workshops were all on those post-its. It was like they’re all finally in the book. So, my post-its, and the structure had come to life.
Alison Jones: Oh. That’s brilliant, and you’ve got this visual tracking of that. This kind of visual … you know those little bars that you get measuring a progress of a task – you’re measuring it by the quantity of post-its that were in the done pile rather than the to-do pile.
Colette Heneghan: Exactly. Exactly. I think that’s another technique actually from Graham as well is just to have a done list versus always it’s to-do because there’s always stuff to do on a book. Even when you finish and it’s printed out, you always can say, “Oh. There’s something else I could have done there” to a certain degree. “Oh, I should have said that,” or “I could have included that.” At some point, the to-do list, you have to look at and see what you have done, and that’s a big motivator.
Alison Jones: Yes. That’s really interesting. I have two productivity focused friends. Grace Marshall, who I know you know, works with Graham, and Bec Evans, and I can’t remember which of them said this, but they are just wonderful. She said, “You should have a ta-dah list.” Ta-Dah! Rather than a to-do list, or as well as your to-do list.
Colette Heneghan: That might be Grace actually. I think I’ve heard Grace say about the ta-dah. Yes. Exactly.
Alison Jones: It’s brilliant. It’s probably Grace via Graham then, but it’s such a memorable little phrase having a ta-dah list. I really think that’s a fantastic thing. I love that you can combine it because the other thing that post-its give you, of course, is that flexibility. You put stuff off, you can add it, you can move it around. Yes. So, you’ve got both of those kind of really, really important functions in one nice little tool.
Colette Heneghan: Exactly. Yes. It’s the most perfect visual. It was just very apparent to me the whole time. I did the same actually when I was sitting. So, I’ve been back to study a few times. So writing dissertations and things like that, it also works really well with those. Yes. So, I was lucky to have had these techniques from Graham for quite a few years now. So, I’ve used them in different, writing different stuff, really.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. That’s really smart.
Colette Heneghan: It really helped.
Alison Jones: Yes. Really smart. Thank you. I always ask people as well to recommend a book. So, obviously, we should all ready Work Fuel. After we’ve done that is there a book that you think listens to this podcast would really benefit from?
Colette Heneghan: Yes. So, I’ve been having to think about this, actually, Alison, because I’m a big reader, so I’ve got quite a few bookshelves in my house with loads of business books on. It was really hard to just pick one from them that’s had, perhaps, the most profound effect on me. So, I’ve actually chosen one that maybe people wouldn’t see as a business book when they first look at it. It’s called The Art of Being Yourself.
Alison Jones: Oh. I don’t know that.
Colette Heneghan: It’s by an amazing lady called Caroline McHugh who at some point in my life was my coach, many years ago now, but I was very lucky to have her when I was in my previous career, and she was working with the business that I was working with them. So, this book is incredible, and I think it’s the best advice I was ever given within a business environment because I think a lot of people, were kind of, well I definitely was, chasing the fact that I was trying to portray someone that was perhaps more successful, someone that was slight different to me with some of the opinions or what I thought people wanted me to have, and those kind of things in my career.
The Art of Being Yourself really just broke all of that down. I just think it’s one of the most priceless things within business because I still see that now when I go into a business environment, and people are trying to fit the culture. Actually, what we want nowadays more than ever, the entrepreneurial style of working, people being creative, really being themselves because at the end of the day, that is your edge. That’s what we each have. That’s what makes us unique.
Alison Jones: That’s a brilliant recommendation, Colette. Thank you. I’ve never heard of the book, and I now immediately want to go and read it. So, Yes, wonderful. Thank you. Thanks. This is why I ask the question, you see. Brilliant. If I don’t know it, there’ll be other people listening who don’t know it. So, thank you.
Colette Heneghan: Caroline McHugh. So, M-C-H-U-G-H. She also has an amazing ted talk and it’s all the same essence of the book. It’s about 20 minutes long. I recommend anyone so watch that too to get a flavour of what the books about. The book then just kind of underlines it all. It’s also a beautiful looking book as well, so it’s never far from me.
Alison Jones: Wonderful. I’ll put the link to the TED talk up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com as well. Also, Colette, where should people go to find out more about you?
Colette Heneghan: Yes. Okay. So, my business is actually called Optimum Living. I run corporate wellness programmes and coaching for teams whether that be in the business world or sports world. Things that’s just resilience, wellness, and energy. That’s optimumliving.co.uk. Graham and I with Work Fuel, we now have our own website which is workfuel.ninja which is very aligned to the book which we’re very happy about.
Alison Jones: That’s great.
Colette Heneghan: Yes. I’ve actually started a podcast myself called Work Fuel. So, that’s if you just type in work fuel, two separate words, into the usual platforms, you will also get that. It’s early days for me. I’m a new podcaster. That’s all about…
Alison Jones: I love podcasts.
Colette Heneghan: I know. We do. We do. Nutrition is one side of it, but it’s actually more holistic than that. So, it’s not just … it’s looking at all the different aspects that we can use to facilitate our fuel for work, so this can be our mindset. It could be rest. It could be movement. So, these are the kind of pillars of health and success within work as well. Then, I’m on Twitter and Instagram. That is just my name. So, just @ColetteHeneghan. So, Yes. So, I’m all over the place basically.
Alison Jones: Right. Well, I will collate that long list of links. I’ll make sure they’re all up on the show notes with your name spelled correctly and all that kind of good stuff. So, brilliant. Well, it’s been an absolute joy talking to you, Colette. Thank you. I feel like I’ve learned so much. I also feel like I need to go and have a healthy lunch now. So, thank you for that at least.
Colette Heneghan: And stop for lunch. Please take lunch.
Alison Jones: Oh. No. That’s never a problem. I don’t get those people that, “Oh no, I forgot lunch.” That never, literally, never happens to me. Not going to happen. Brilliant. All right. Thank you so much.
Colette Heneghan: My pleasure. Thank you.