In our fast-paced world of digital connection and multiple roles, it can be easy to lose track of our goals (and even ourselves). I’d like to give you some steps you can take today to look within yourself and reconnect to what you truly want. Once you know this, then you’ll be able to move in the direction that’s right for you. (After all, isn’t that what personal productivity is all about?)
Step 1: The 30-minute Appointment You Need On Your Calendar
Schedule 30 minutes with yourself every single day. This simple step is one of the most transformative practices in personal productivity and wellbeing.
I wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning to have time to myself before I even think of getting ready for work. Sometimes I spend that half hour on my yoga mat and other times I play with my pup in the backyard. No TV. No phone. No computer. Disconnect to reconnect.
How To Start Today: Set aside short chunks of time for introspection and observation. Do things that make you feel calm and connected to yourself, your thoughts, and your environment. Start small with a five-minute morning meditation or a 15-minute walk at lunch.
During this time, a number of thoughts might pop into your head. This is completely normal. If something is important, acknowledge it, jot it down on your phone or a piece of paper, and move on. If you’re anything like me and find yourself in a thought hurricane, I find it helps to close your eyes. Direct your attention to your breathing. Focusing on something autonomous is an excellent way to clear your mind.
You might also consider keeping a journal. Getting your thoughts and ideas onto paper is a great exercise for organization, clarity, and accountability. This practice also allows you to look back and observe how your way of thinking has changed over time.
Keep in mind: You deserve more than leftover time after you finish all of your tasks and responsibilities. Spending time with yourself is something you do intentionally. Make time.
Step 2: Choose Your Course And Set Sail
When you practice step one regularly, you gradually become more aware of who you are and what you value. You also give yourself the time and space to explore those things a bit deeper.
Maybe you will find something that you like and are good at doing. That’s great! Practice that. If you enjoy being creative but can only draw stick people, that’s great too. The important thing is to find something (or maybe many things) important to you, and do that something regularly.
If you feel like you don’t have time for your thing(s), please see step one. Is it important to you? If so, make time for it.
How To Start Today: Begin by asking yourself a series of questions. When do you feel the happiest? Whether it’s when you’re creating something or spending time with the ones you love, think about how you most enjoy spending your time. Shouldn’t everything else you do lead toward creating more time and ways to do what you enjoy and value?
If the concept of “happiness” seems foggy or elusive, what intrigues you? What makes you curious? Learn more about that. What goals do you want to achieve? What might you want your life to look like?
Write down words, activities, or values that resonate with you (i.e. connection, creativity, exploration, family, health, etc.). Settle on a few themes you’d like to prioritize and begin brainstorming ways you can progress towards enhancing different areas of your life. Then practice these things regularly – even if you have to schedule them into your day for the next six months.
Keep In Mind: This is a process (not a one-time activity) and requires practice and patience. You may not be where you want to be yet, but you’re moving in the right direction. The key is to do your best to keep that momentum.
Step 3: Save Your Appetite For The Main Course
In the words of Bill Gates, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
To move big picture goals forward, make them your priority. If you fill up on snacks and bread (meaningless routines or mundane tasks), you won’t have room for the main course (those things from step two that make you happy). Bill Gates’ quote is similar to our parents’ reminders to save our appetite for dinner rather than fill up on the small stuff with no nutritional value.
How To Start Today: With a better idea of what you want, you can begin to eliminate what you don’t necessarily need. First, stop buying things you don’t need. De-clutter your physical space and find richness in experience, connection, and simplicity. Second, stop accepting responsibilities or opportunities that do not interest you. This approach equates to mental and emotional de-cluttering, which provides you more space and energy for your goals.
Unless a task is required, if an opportunity arises and doesn’t excite you (or match you big picture goals), say “no.” It’s all too easy to fill our plates with mediocre or flavourless tasks. Those kinds of tasks will prevent you from having the time, space, and energy to work on the things that make us shout, “YES!!”. Start prioritizing what you want by saying “no” to what you don’t.
Keep In Mind: Don’t feel guilty in saying “no” to things that don’t resonate with you. Setting boundaries isn’t being selfish; it’s pursuing your personal growth. There is a big difference.
Step 4: Acknowledge Your Obstacles To Move Past Them
We’re taught to fear words like “challenge” and “struggle.” The truth, however, is that these are necessary to our growth as humans. While it’s easy to resist starting something new for fear of looking inexperienced, my suggestion is to do it anyway. Try that new hobby, activity, sport, course, fitness regime, etc. that you’ve always wanted to. Forget how you might look and focus on the fact that you’re learning something different and reaching new goals.
When I dove into rock climbing, I struggled with intimidation, frustration, and an incredible amount of callouses. Yet, it’s the struggle (and the falling) that brings me closer to my goals, my community, and myself.
How To Start Today: Craft your list of priorities (step two) into specific goals for yourself. Leave space beside or underneath each goal to write the obstacles you face (or might face) for each. Contemplate each obstacle and brainstorm how you plan to overcome it. Who will keep you accountable? How will you document your progress? When will you schedule the time to pursue this goal? And so on.
This proactive practice addresses potential issues before they arise, providing a structure that can increase your self-confidence, transform your habits, and shift your mindset before you even dive in. You’re ahead already!
Keep In Mind: Be gentle with yourself. Your life is a work in progress. You will get there – wherever your “there” might be. For now, connect with yourself and what you want. And mindfully move forward.
There is no doubt we all face a variety of challenges each day. When you apply these four steps, you will find it easier to focus on the big picture. I’d like to challenge you to put one of these steps into practice today. And once you have success with that one, move onto one of the other steps.
Which of these steps would you like to put into practice first? Please share in the comments below.