I am finally feeling better. I breathe more easily now. I even feel myself taking a step back and just enjoying the present.
It was not always this way. I got frazzled easily, stressed by the priorities laid upon me instead of the ones I decided to develop myself, believing that I had no choice, that this was indeed how it was to be. But things have changed.
Reading was key. It opened me up to new ideas and shifts in my mindset. Reading, to me, is my trigger, to getting so much more done, and living more closely to the ideal I have built up for myself. That is why I don’t have time for tv. It’s a great way to relax, to zone out but time is a precious commodity to me. And that is why I say that the road to greater fulfilment is paved with much distraction.
You have a choice in everything you do. Always. Even when it seems that you don’t. You could as easily choose to watch an hour of tv instead of catching up on your reading. I could easily choose to do that instead of writing this post. Distractions abound, wherever you go. The point is to recognise them for what they are. They exist to question and strengthen your resolve.
Choose to see distraction not as a challenge or obstruction. They are tools to help you refine your goal. They help you decide how strongly you want to do something. Because there are times when you are not sure how badly you want something.
I read somewhere that when that happens, you should flip a coin because in the split second that coin is up in the air, it’s the moment in which you know what you want to do. Distractions are like that. Whether it is one thing (like tv) or just any kind of distraction (I didn’t have enough sleep last night, I need to meet Joe for dinner because I already promised him earlier), it does not matter. What matters is whether you let one or many through and if you do, ask yourself whether the goal you set for yourself is really, really what you want.
What has changed for me?
There are three areas of my life that are affected in the categories below.
INWARD FACING – I have many things I want to do.
Unfortunately, I have neither the desire nor the ability to wait for each to be completely consecutively. So, I must tackle them, at some point, on a concurrent basis.
OUTWARD FACING – I have many demands placed on my time.
These are in relation to the work responsibilities I have, the family I am blessed with and the household I run. As an entrepreneur, there is never a shortage of ideas that require action. Business grows, and there are things to get going. You make the work. You run your business.
As a mother, there is never enough time to complete the things you want to do. There are the low level responsibilities – things that can suck your time like housework and grocery shopping and the high level responsibilities – like figuring out how to teach your child to stand up to a bully.
STAGNATION – This is stuff in both categories above. They refer to things that I am attempting to do – some may be large projects (revamping my personal household budget and changing one habit at a time) and some are small things (getting more reading done). What bothers me is that if I consider them separately and view them as projects (for ease), then most of these projects are stagnating. They are in varying levels of completion and some get tackled so slowly that by the time I come around to it, I :-
- have lost my drive (I’ve only done this so far- what is the point now? I might as well stop);
- have lost my focus (What was I doing this for again?); and
- have not got the quick wins to keep me going.
What held me back?
1. Trying to do too much. I can be pretty crazy like that (I read multiple books at any one time). However, I’ve come to accept that and I now find a way to stay me and still get results.
2. Slow wins. If you don’t have small quick wins, let’s face it, its a hard, long and lonely road.
3. Lack of focus. Your mind is all over the place with a succession of to-do items to tick off. You’ve gone in deep and you are mired in the nitty gritty of it all.
4. Big changes. These things take time, patience and grit. If you try to do this alongside other stuff, be prepared to take longer, to be sorely tested. If you try to do this for more than one big thing at a time, be prepared to fail.
So how have I overcome these various challenges?
More than ever, I believe that it’s critical that you get organised. Passion will not get you where you need to be if you are not organised. This needs to be a critical skill not just physically but also mentally. We’re not talking about nicely lined tins in a cupboard but if your desk is messy, and your mind is cluttered, and you fail to see that it is a problem, it’s groundhog day and you don’t even know it.
The calendar is used to set appointments, carve out time for assignments, projects (personal or work) and as a reminder system for pending issues/meetings/plans. Alarms and reminders on my phone mean I can set it up and it will ping at the right day/time. You simply cannot remember everything and even if you did, you most certainly cannot remember everything at the right time. I have mini notebooks, post it notes and recylcled paper everywhere – in the house, in the car, in my gym bag. When an idea strikes, take it down.
2. Prioritisation aka focus
Trello is my KIV system – things I want to work on (short-term, long-term and mid-term priorities) and the best thing I’ve discovered to now plan my day. Every day.
I want to make sure that the things I do everyday are the very things I want to work on everyday. I don’t want to be at the mercy of what others are pushing out to me – I want to create/deliver/put out things of my own.
I want to make sure I have time to think. I need to block out that time – if I don’t, it doesnt happen.
3. Action aka execution
You can think about it. You can plan around it. Heck, you can also do a lot of reading about it. But nothing beats execution. Just go get it done. The first step is the hardest. But it gets easier after that, I promise you.
You can’t think your way around the things you want to achieve. You also need to actually work on it and get it done.
4. Developing habits
One key realisation for me : Individually coming up with ideas, making plans, tackling stuff – these work but in silos, they are so prone to failure without one thing in place : systems or in the case of human beings : habits.
Relying on plans, memory, desire, impetus, passion and flow – they place too great a burden on you, your mental processes and your desire.
You need systems. And you need a goal.
Once you’ve figured out what it is that you want to do, you cant rely on your desire or memory of this to get you through. You must help yourself and you do that by setting yourself up for success. You need to put a framework around you that best supports you. You need to put systems in place to ensure you do what you planned to do.
Framework : you don’t continue stocking cheetos in the cupboard if you’ve decided you want to lose 10lbs. Get rid of it. Keep good wholesome food in the house only. Keep a list of foods you will eat. Keep a list of foods you won’t touch. Refer to it often. Have a goal, articulate it, make it visible. Figure out the milestones and mark them. Articulate where/when you see yourself failing and come up with a Plan B.
Systems : You’ve developed a habit of stopping by the cafe downstairs and grabbing a doughnut when taking the lift down from work. Remedy : take the stairs. Have a mini workout, completely bypass the doughnut and therefore avoid the temptation.
This requires thinking through the steps, the trigger points, the typical responses, the automatic thinking, automatic behaviour and the cues. You don’t need to think of all of it at the one time but you need to be mindful so you see it happening, as it’s happening. Then you can start to shift.
5. Letting go.
Pick one, then two and then three things you want to work on. Let the rest go. Schedule them for phase 2.
6. Accepting failure as part of the journey.
Understand that you will fail, get up and back on. Fail, get up and back on. The mental switch is necessary to undertake this journey. Failure has to be the way in which you will burn a new way, a new approach, a new result.
This is one of two buzz words for me this year. Automation is the key to my success. There’s so much to think about, there’s so much coming at me. I want the stuff that I really want to get done, to be done effortlessly, almost like riding a bicycle or driving home. You don’t think about that, do you? You just do it.
Outsource what you can. Outsource the low level items. Outsource the job but not the responsibility. Get the job done but monitor it. Free your time so you can fill it with things that matter.