The year has already taken off like a bat out of a cave!
I keep hearing from people who feel overwhelmed by crazy schedules, unrealistic deadlines, intrapersonal drama, and an endless stream of demands.
Because of that, I would like to:
1) Focus on the biggest mistakes people make that exacerbate their stress level
2) Suggest strategies to avoid those mistakes
3) Challenge you to take a few small steps forward to start gaining some control over your time & productivity.
Pinpointing these mistakes should be helpful to everyone, no matter where you are in life. Once you identify these mistakes, you can avoid them and become much more productive in your career.
The beginning of the year is a great time to start with the first mistake many people make: assuming that the time management & strategies that worked for you in a previous stage of your career will continue to be effective in your current stage. For example, the workload, responsibilities, and pressures you had as a college student are different than those facing you as a full-time employee. I know that sounds pretty obvious, yet there are still people who don’t own an actual calendar. They are trying to keep everything they need to do in their head, have no concrete plans and their entire life strategy consists of waiting for large chunks of uninterrupted time to materialize so they can go on a productivity binge.
While this may have worked in college, large blocks of uninterrupted time are highly unlikely to come by as an adult. As a professional, you are expected to participate, perform, AND be productive – all at a high level. But without a proactive strategy, productivity is often the first thing that DOES NOT happen.
In order to accomplish all of these things, you must be absolutely clear about what work needs to get done to move your professional agenda forward, and you must be ruthless about making time for the one thing that matters most. I’m talking about strategically creating the space each week for activities that contribute to your long-term success (whatever those may be). In other words, busy days/weeks can easily fly by without much progress towards your long-term goals unless you do three things at the outset: 1) create a clear work plan, 2) commit yourself to daily activity towards that and 3) connect with a community of support and accountability.
Three Steps to a New Year of Success:
Step #1: Develop A Clear And Realistic Strategic Plan
Before the year really gets into full swing, set aside 30 minutes to develop a strategic plan for the next 4-6 weeks. Creating a strategic plan is easy — just start by listing your goals for the month and the tasks that are necessary to meet them. Then map these onto your calendar so that you know which blocks of time you will devote to each one. There’s a finite number of weeks in every month, so it’s critical to determine what specific weeks you will devote to each project on your list. A strategic plan will help you to clarify WHAT needs to be done and WHEN you will do it.
Step #2: Commit Yourself To At Least 30 Minutes of Productivity Every Day
I know I may sound like a broken record on this point, but I know that you can have an incredible breakthrough by simply committing to daily productivity, blocking that time out on your calendar, and showing up every day. If you haven’t tried it, all I can say is that this will not only consistently move you towards the completion of your goals, but it will also reduce your anxiety by aligning your daily schedule with your goals & personal mission.
Step #3: Connect With A Community of Support That Will Keep You Motivated And Accountable
While it is critical to have a clear strategic plan and execute it by working at it every day, the most important factor for success during a busy period is connecting with a community of support and accountability. Too many of us try to do everything alone and expect ourselves to be perfectly motivated and disciplined at all times. Not only is this unrealistic, but it’s also a recipe for isolation, alienation and frustration. To be honest, I love writing my blogs but a lot of times, I just don’t make time for it as much as I should. There are lots of different ways to create accountability structures, just pick the one that works best for you.
I hope the rest of this year brings each of you the clarity to define your goals, the persistence to work at it every day, and the joy that is found in making true progress!