When was the last time you PLANNED how you wanted to feel? That is a crazy notion, isn't it? However, if you do it, you will find that you have a way different year ahead of you!
Look back for lessons
In my last blog post, I encouraged you to look back over the past year for the lessons you learned. I suggested that by reviewing how things turned out in different situations, you can collect ideas for what you may want to do differently in the future. If you want different results, then you need to do something else. Doing last week's exercise should have highlighted some areas of your life that you want to change.
Look ahead to choose feelings
Now that you have taken a look back it's time to pivot and look ahead. Both the backward review and peering into the future are all part of laying a solid foundation before you set goals for the new year.
As you inspect what might unfold for you in the new year, I want you to consider how you want to feel. Yes, instead of thinking about what you want to achieve or what you are hoping to accomplish, I want you to think about feelings for a moment.
This is not what you want...
What is it that you want to experience next year? We all know what we don't want:
Consider the experience you want
But if not that, then what? That's the easy part. We complain, bitch and moan all the time about what we don't want. However, continuing that cycle in your head only keeps you stuck on the negative. Instead, you need to look for something different.
Consider for a moment, what feelings and experiences do you want in the coming year. Here are some examples of what feelings you may be looking for:
Hold off on developing goals
If your mind keeps going to goals, step back from them for a bit. Setting goals are important. And we will get there. But the goal is not the whole picture. When we only identify the target, we miss why attaining that is so important.
When you ask yourself what you are looking to accomplish a goal or achieve something, it's about the feeling that you will get as a result of completing it.
It matters because it's doing that thing, or achieving that thing means you have a certain feeling as a result. It's that feeling that I want you to focus on now
I come back to one of the most popular. Goals that everyone identifies each year to become healthier. So what difference does it make if you lose weight, or change your eating habits?
Imagine though that you want to do something different at work, go back to school, apply for a new position or start a new project. Consider that outcome for a moment and think about what the feeling is that you are longing for. Changing jobs will make you feel what?
Where do you already feel that?
The second part of this exercise is to consider the list the feelings that you've identified. Then, look at where you already experienced those feelings now.
Combine the lessons learned and feelings desired
Pulling these two concepts together (lessons + feelings) looks like this:
Looking back and then ahead
When you pull out lessons learned and pair that with the desired feelings you have for the future, you are in a great place to set goals for the future. Take the time in the next week or two to let these two ideas sit with you. Come back to them a few times. Journal some thoughts about them. Talk to others in your life about it as well. Slowing down to intentionally get a handle on your life, will put you back in the driver's seat. From there you can create your future yourself, rather than just watch it unfold!
The problem is you are unhappy with your day-to-day life, but you don’t know how to change it.
The consequence of staying trapped can be stagnation, frustration, and bitterness. It can become quite unhealthy for you, your team and your family as the effects spill out around you. Perhaps you’ve already noticed this. Especially, if you, like many, have been bogged down for weeks, months or even years.
THE SIMPLE SOLUTION: The solution is to change it. Getting from where you are now to where you want to be is quite simple, right? You just figure out where you want to go and start moving in that direction. It sounds simple perhaps in theory, but we all know, it is not always so easy in real life. At times, getting there can seem downright impossible.
I know that place of stuck all too well. Time-and-time again I have found that I am once again feeling stalled. I realize I’ve been working hard, but getting nowhere, except worn out. You know that feeling too right?
I learned that instead of staying stuck forever, it was when I paused long enough to realize what was going on that I had some great insights. Through conscious pondering, I was able to figure out what I needed to do to get from where I was, to where I wanted to be. Giving myself that time to think allowed me to do a little bit of a pivot in a new direction.
That slight shift of direction helped me to create a new strategy to accomplish what I was looking for. With that plan in hand, I was able to proceed forward, despite challenges, opposition and with the fear and doubt that are ever present.
THE COMPLETE SOLUTION:
The key to success has always been a plan. It is the deliberate understanding of what I need to do next, and perhaps even after that has gotten me, and can get you too, through the challenges that are inevitably in front of us when we want a different experience of life going forward.
A plan is a roadmap that helps you to move from where you are now, to where you want to be. Think of it as your guide that shows you the next step when you get lost or disoriented. Without it, you might just end up going around in circles. In fact, I believe many of us do that daily. Around-and-around the hamster wheel of life we go, never really getting anywhere.
A plan isn’t just simply saying I don’t want this, but I do want that. A well thought out, comprehensive plan includes the steps you need to take and addresses potential challenges and roadblocks that you will face. The truth is, it going to take time and effort to get to your destination. You will need to work at it step-by-step. To be successful, you need to build a thorough plan.
DEVELOPING YOUR PLAN:
Moving from the trapped place of overwhelm, doubt or spinning your wheels to feeling happy, confident and advancing forward each day with purpose, takes effort, time and persistence. It is not easy. The truth is, it can be quite difficult. What makes getting back into motion easier, is one secret ingredient that is often missed. Wishing, hoping and begging will only take you so far. To get the rest of the way, you need that plan.
If it’s time for you to jump off of that crazy hamster wheel and move forward, then it’s time for you to develop your plan.
DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE HAZARDS:
If you are like many women, you develop a plan to change your life, only to have it all fall apart just a short time later. That’s because you likely made one of the critical mistakes most women make when trying to develop a plan to change their life.
I want to make sure you are successful moving forward. To help you out with this, I’ve developed a list of the 5 mistakes women make when trying to change their life. I’ve also included the “fix” to those mistakes, so you don’t get caught. To get those 5 mistakes, just click here, and I’ll send you the report.
Remember, the plan is critical. However, it must be a comprehensive plan to work. Take the time, don’t make these mistakes, and build your plan today! When you do, you’ll find yourself getting unstuck. Instead, you will be moving forward with clarity and purpose.
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TO-DO lists are typically looked at with angst. We detest the very sight of them. They are distressing and endless! However, for most of us, to-do lists are also indispensable. They keep us on track and ensure we do get things done. If you want your TO-DO list to be a productive tool, though, you need to keep it manageable.
The question then becomes: How do you trim your TO-DO list?
The wrong thing to put on your list
If you want to tame your TO-DO list, you must remove repetitive items. When you stop entering tasks on your list that you complete on a regular basis, you will see your list shrink dramatically. Culling your list in this way makes your TO-DO list become your welcome friend rather than fearful foe.
Removing the routine items
Cyclical tasks happen on a cycle. For example, you might prepare a program schedule every week and review your budget once a month. These intermittent, but regular items do not belong on your to-do list. Routine items should instead be entered into your schedule.
Book appointments with yourself
Most leaders only use their agenda for meetings and appointments with others. They may list other things they need to do during the day in their agenda, but only as bulleted points. What I am suggesting instead is that you enter routine items into a time slot in your schedule with a beginning and ending time. The routine task should be entered into your schedule as an appointment with yourself.
The dreaded monthly stats task
Let me give you an example. Many managers need to do monthly statistics and quarterly reports. This means that every month you pull together a bunch of charts, forms, and spreadsheets. Laying them all out on your desk, you compile data into a report that goes off to the powers that be.
For most leaders, this data compilation is not a fun task. Leaders put it off and delay doing it until the last moment. I venture to guess that most leaders tend to get it done by either staying late or finishing it on the weekend.
This chore gets done on a manager’s own time because the manager never placed it a priority. Oh, I know they may put it at the top of their TO-DO list! But that didn’t mean it came before other fires needing put out. Since the monthly statistical collection wasn’t put in as an appointment, it did not get completed during the regular daytime hours.
Move it from TO-DO list to your agenda
These kinds of routine things need to put into your agenda. You need to schedule a regular appointment with yourself to get done the things that need to get repeatedly done.
Set it up as an appointment
But what if something more important comes up?
If something else comes up and you can’t do the task during that time, then you need to rebook the time.
If you erase it, then you must replace it.
Rebook it if you can't do it
That means if you cannot do the work when you said you were going to then you must find another time slot in your calendar to replace it with. Again, routine tasks should not be something that you then take home with you for homework.
A manageable looking TO-DO list
What this leaves is a manageable TO-DO list for you to prioritize. It won’t be quite as scary to look at the items left. When you have 20 minutes of time, you can scan the list and see what can be done.
Remember to schedule routine tasks
Keeping your TO-DO list to a manageable size requires you to be mindful of what you enter on to it. Schedule routine items into your agenda. That way regularly occurring tasks will get done on time. This will also leave your TO-DO list smaller, more inviting to scan and way easier to keep up with.
How many items did you move from your TO-DO list to your schedule? Does your TO-DO list look more manageable now?
I don’t know about you, but when I am less than productive, I am grouchy!
I get irritable when I get behind. Interruptions annoy the crap out of me. Not only do I get short with others, but I also beat myself up.
At times, it is in fact, very hard to stay focused! But it doesn't always have to be.
Unproductive days = Bad mood
You too likely feel this level of irritation on less than productive days. You also know the consequence of how an unproductive day can spill into your evening. Being terse with your staff is certainly not optimal, but a cutting remark with your child can leave you feeling inept in the parenting department. Adding to the guilty parent syndrome is insomnia. As you lay there ruminating through your list of undone tasks, the cycle begins again. The pressure increases the next day, to more, in less time.
Turn that frown upside down
This all too familiar cycle was the norm for me for years. The more determined I got in the last few years to meaningful work, the more necessary it became to be productive. Changing a few things has made an incredible difference for me. I still have less productive times, but they are fewer and farther between. I end most weeks ticking everything off of my weekly list.
Planning + Prioritizing + Hacks = Productivity
The last couple of weeks I walked you through my method of weekly planning and prioritizing. This week, I’m giving you 3 productivity hacks that will help you take that weekly and daily to-do list and get them done. The result, you can shut off at the end of the day knowing you completed what you needed to. Being productive at work frees up your mind and your energy to shift into the rest of your life. Feeling upbeat when you come home at the end of your workday results in a much more enjoyable evening with your loved ones!
The 3 Productivity Hacks Guaranteed to Boost Your Mood
1. Batch Similar Tasks
Batching refers to doing the same things at the same time. It also relates to completing similar types of activities back-to-back.
You likely already know that multitasking is ineffective. That is because your brain can only do one thing, at a time. Multitasking is when you are trying to switch from one to another. The problem is, it takes your brain a bit to catch up.
Remember newton’s law: An object in motion stays in motion? The same happens with your brain. When you are focused on performance reviews and then switch to opening up an Excel spreadsheet with budgets on it, your brain is still moving in the direction of staff growth and development. It takes effort to stop that train of thought and switch to thinking about numbers. Don't work your brain so hard. Batch similar items together so your brain is going in the same direction.
Another benefit of batching is reduced preparation and cleanup. If I am working on one project, I have files out, and binders flagged, There are a multitude of windows open on my computer. I won’t lie to you; it’s a mess. To shift to a different project, I either have to spend time cleaning it all up (only to pull it all out again tomorrow) or open folders, books, and tabs on top of the current mayhem. Starting something new before finishing the old adds to the clutter. Both of these options make a messier workspace. They also take up more time. Batching items together cuts down preparation time and minimizes clutter.
When you are working on a project, stick to it. Batch projects together to keep the brain focused, save time, and eliminate clutter. Here are some examples:
2. Make the best use of your productive times
First, figure out when your most productive times are
Second, know the tasks necessitating your peak focus
Typically, just like in school, the things that require that level of diligence are reading, writing and arithmetic. If you need to read over and digest a report, you’ll need high focus. Composing a letter, a review or proposal are duties that demand attentiveness. It goes without saying that for most of us, spreadsheets call forth a need for concentrated attention as well.
Finally, use your time wisely
Schedule the activities requiring intense concentration into the times that you are best able to focus. I think I say this in every blog post….don’t do email first thing! Save email as a before lunch activity when you are already a bit fried. Do your reading, writing, and arithmetic when you need peak energy, focus, and willpower.
3. Minimize and eliminate interruptions
Create your environment so you are least likely to be interrupted
Set your boundaries
Get clear that you’re unavailable and for how long.
Reinforce your boundaries
Practice what you’ll say to people when they interrupt you.
“I will time at 10:00 am. Right now I am focusing on these reports needing to be completed. If it’s important before then, Crystal can help you out.”
Be strict ---> with yourself
You are your own worst enemy. Your lack of focus comes more often from inside than outside. Focus requires an incredible amount of willpower. Read these blogs to discover more about staying focused.
Productivity results in elevated mood
If you don't want to find yourself with lingering grouchiness as you walk into your home, get productive. Follow the plan and prioritize method I've shared. Then add these hacks to your week. You'll find yourself not only more productive but much happier too!
Kathy is a leadership coach for women who want to strengthen their leadership and find balance in life. She mentors females as they rediscover their purpose, passion and persistence for life while dealing with office politics, jerk bosses and the challenges of family life. In her signature program Women with Grit: Leading with Courage & Confidence, Kathy gives her ladies the hope and inspiration they need along with a kick in the pants to make positive change in their lives.
Lengthy To-Do lists are paralyzing!
The endless list of tasks, all which seem important, blurs in front of us. Flabbergasted at the daunting chore of prioritizing, we play it safe. Many of us then default into checking email one more time. By averting the cursed To-Do list repeatedly, we not only get further behind but more and more disheartened.
It's the norm for most of us
Ask any leader and you’ll likely hear a similar response.
Stop fighting with your To-Do list
Rather than your To-Do list being your foe, let me show you how it can be your valuable assistant. By prioritizing your To-Do list into some semblance of order, it can become a tool working for you, instead of a threat against you. Last week I walked you through a weekly planning session that had you develop a list of tasks for the upcoming week. Take the list you made and prioritize it by asking yourself the following 3 questions.
3 Questions to ask when prioritizing your To-Do list
Make use of the questions
Use these 3 questions to prioritize your weekly To-Do list and your accompanying schedule. Look at what you realistically needs to get done this week and move it to the top of your list. The rest can stay on the list perhaps and get it done if you truly have the time. But make sure the top priorities get done first. How do you do that? You get done the priories items by then moving prioritizing your daily To Do’s.
3- minute daily prioritizing
At the beginning of each day, spend three minutes identifying the top three priority To Do items for that day. Yes, only three!
It isn’t that you can only do those three things, rather those are the 3 mandatory things you must get done.
Make a separate sticky note, highlight the To-Do’s, or in some way identify that they are your top three items for the day. Then, ensure that these things get done to the best of your ability before 11 AM.
If you truly want to be more productive and successful at getting done the most important things, get your top three done every day. When you do, you will find things move forward much quicker for you.
Putting it all together
Remember to look at last week’s post on planning. In it, I walk you through the steps in how to pull out all of the To-Do’s items for in a weekly planning session. Each week, take your list and line it up against the following considerations:
Follow the plan and find your friend
Use these questions to help you create a weekly To-Do list that assists you. Your To-Do list becomes your friendly reminder of what is truly important. Use it to guide you each day, to pull out your top three To-Do items you need to focus on. Follow these steps and your peers will be wondering how suddenly you are accomplishing so much!
Question: What were your top 3 To-Do items for today?
Do you find each week you intend to get a lot done, but mournfully realize that when Friday hits you’ve barely touched your own to do list? Instead, you accomplished a lot of things that other people added to your to-do list. In the process of reacting to everyone else’s demands you didn’t get the assignments done, you wanted to. Miserably, you note that some of the unfinished items on your list were crucial tasks to move important projects forward that were truly important to you and your team.
Trust me, you are not the only one who feels like this at the end of your week.
Too much reacting rather than responding
Leaders spend more time acting on requests from others than completing their own priority tasks. The sense of urgency to solve everyone else's problems leaves a manager feeling as though they spend their days chasing fires and never getting anywhere. If you want to get off that hamster wheel and do more of your essential work, then you will need to be more intentional about what you are doing with your time rather than reactionary.
Critical to begin with planning
It is critical that you start each week by planning your week. Before you get caught up in chasing everybody else’s plans and agenda for you, you must reorient yourself to what are priorities for you. By setting aside time each week to lay out what you want your week to look like, you will have better control of what actually happens.
Get your head out of the sand
Weekly planning sessions allow you to pull your head out of the sand. While it is important to put your head down and get work done at times, a leader's critical function is to lift their head (and their organization’s head) up and get a bigger picture view repeatedly. Weekly planning time is this head up, expansive view of the bigger picture. This time allows the leader to put things into perspective for them and their organization.
Weekly planning allows you to get projects, plans, and tasks into focus again. From this outlook, you can choose how to respond to your week rather than frantically reacting to whatever shows up in your inbox, at your door or on your desk. Creating a habit of weekly planning puts you back in control and moving forward, rather than running around and around.
3 Steps to creating a weekly planning habit
1) Schedule a weekly time slot into your agenda
First set aside time to each week to do your planning. Schedule it into your agenda and stick to it. Depending on your level of responsibilities and your style, you will need 20 minutes to an hour.
Dealing with the big list of items
You should now have a list of things you want to tackle in the upcoming week. For some of you, this might feel a bit overwhelming. For others, it might be refreshing. One way to look at it is that you now have everything out of your brain and in one place. There will be less of a chance of forgetting things or having things lost in the shuffle.
Dumping everything onto this list, from this big picture perspective is in itself, helpful. It creates a roadmap for your week. This plan also you to set boundaries with others when they are trying to take your time. You can align their request up, with what remains on your to-do list for the week. From there that you can make an informed choice rather of what to do than react to what’s thrown at you.
3) Creating your plan
From this list of action items, create your plan for the week.
Make weekly planing your priority
Setting aside time to plan your week puts you on track to having a more productive week. Choose when you want to do this, then schedule planning time weekly into your agenda. During the identified time review your annual goals, quarterly projects, the previous week appointments and upcoming week’s schedule. From this analysis create a list of tasks you want to accomplish. Stay tuned next week, for how to then, prioritize that list.
QUESTION: While this all sounds great, I'd love to hear your objections to doing this each week. What might get in the way? How would you work around that? Make a comment below.
If you are struggling to get moving on a project or finding a lack of motivation in your team, you need to figure our the “why” behind the task. You need to discover your motive.
A motive is something that causes a person to act such as:
At work, those truly aren’t the best motives. Even money doesn’t work to encourage people.
What does work to get motivation?
Getting connected to why you need to do what you need to do is the strongest motivator there is. If we can’t understand the importance of what we are doing, connected to the bigger picture, there is nothing to pull us forward.
Many of you have heard the following parable. I think it’s worth repeating here:
A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.
What is your team's cathedral vision?
We need to connect the brick we are each laying at this moment to the cathedral we are building together. You need to do this for yourself and your team. They need to understand why they are doing the task in front of them. People want to know they are part of something bigger. They want to know their part matters to that larger vision.
Dig for your "Why" by writing
The way connect everyone to that larger vision, is to spend time excavating the “why.” Set aside 5 minutes to ponder the questions listed below. Write your answers. Yes, write them down. The act of writing will completely transform this exercise from a waste of time to saving incredible amounts of time. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it. Then, tell me below if I was right or wrong.
The questions to ponder
When you are struggling with a lack of motivation, write down the answer the following questions:
I swear if you take 5 minutes to write down the answers to these questions you will save yourself and your team hours of frustration. If you take 15 minutes to do this exercise with your team, look out! You’ll be in for some incredible insights.
Motivate by finding your "why"
When you are struggling with motivation, connect to the reason you are trying to do the work in front of you. What is the desire, urge, or inspiration to do the task? Why bother? Take time to write down answers to questions that help you to open up your thinking. Save yourself time and frustration by investing in connecting to your motive. You’ll spark that motivation in both you and your team.
When you actually wrote down the answers, what did you discover?
Delaying, prolonging and stretching out tasks. We all do it. We joke about it. We tease others about it. Procrastination, however, does get in the way of our productivity.
It seems that we are resigned to dealing with procrastination. It’s just a part of life. Right? It doesn’t have to be.
Let’s look at common reasons why we procrastinate and three strategies to deal with three types of procrastination.
Which one of these is you?
The reasons we put off task are many but generally fall into three categories. Check to see which one matches your current procrastination slump and discover a strategy for dealing with it.
1. The task makes you feel uncomfortable.
In this situation, it is the job in front of you that feeds your resistance.
If the task in front of you makes you uncomfortable, “Name it to tame it.” By pausing and identifying what’s going on under the surface, you’ll be able to get a handle on your emotions that are triggering your procrastination.
It is your emotions that stop your actions.
Naming the emotion you feel, allows you deal with your resistance to the task in front of you.
2) The NEXT task makes you uncomfortable.
Try finishing these sentence
What emotion did the next task bring up for you?
It’s the subsequent feeling, about what happens next, that has you procrastinating on the current project.
Take time to recognize the links. Notice what is coming up after the task you are procrastinating on.
Make notes of your fears and what anxiety right arises in you about the next step. Then, go back to the first strategy. Name it to tame it. Naming the emotions allows you to get a handle on it. Being in control of your emotions puts you back into motion.
3) You are depleted
The most often overlooked reason we procrastinate is that we are truly depleted. We are like cell phones. We run out of charge. The problem is most of us only plug back in for a short time. Bumping back up to 10% charge doesn’t allow us to function adequately. Before long we are feeling drained again. When you’re running on empty, it’s extremely difficult to focus and use brainpower.
Employing these strategies to move through resistance will put you back in control. Noticing the emotional connection to what is going on helps you to regain momentum. Remember, name it to tame it. And, please don’t forget to recharge fully.
Distractions and disruptions can mean disaster for big projects!
Don’t let that happen to you. If you focus on the following three tips, you’ll find you can ditch distractions, diminish the disruptions and delight in what you can accomplish.
I was afraid I wouldn't get it done
I am working on finishing up my first book. I wrote it in between traveling, speaking, coaching, and teaching as well as my day-to-day tasks of running my business. The fear that I was going to be able to pull it off with such a full schedule prompted me to develop a completion strategy.
To finish the book amidst potential derailment from everything else going on, I needed to be focused. That meant I had to hone in on the productivity strategies I teach. The book I am writing means too much to me, I could not let it linger on forever. I knew it was time to practice what I preach.
To Do Lists Don't Work
I wish I had known more about this kind of productivity when I was in management. Back then trying to get through proposal writing, preparing for accredited reviews, completing a performance appraisal, or trying in vain to get through an overhaul of our orientation manual meant putting it on my to-do list. The problem was, just because it was on the top of my list didn't mean it was first to get done. My list didn’t help me stay focused. When someone else thought his or her demand of my time was more important, I tended to react to their petition. (read more about ditching ginormous to-do lists)
3 Tips to help complete BIG projects
If you have experienced similar challenges, here are some productivity hacks that will help you out immensely.
Blocking off large chunks of time and communicating to your team what you are doing is the first component to completing big projects. Don't stop there, though. Stay focused on the project by eliminating the distractions. Remember, you are your worst enemy. Keep the phone and the guilt as far away from you as possible. Eat healthy, move your body and get a good nights sleep. Mastering the basics gives you the edge you need to dig deep and get er' done.
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