We are smack-dab in the middle of the “busy” era where everyone is always on, but most people are doing nothing.
I fall into these busy traps all the time myself! Today’s world has been designed to grab our attention everywhere, keep us plugged in at all times, and has blurred the lines between professional and personal time. It’s no wonder why people feel like they are just running on a hamster wheel. It never stops.
Today is not about doom-and-gloom, I just wanted to paint a picture for you about what’s going on and perhaps some ways to create some more freedom for yourself.
(click here or the play button below to listen to this post)
Where are we going wrong?
Sometimes I find myself at the end of the day asking, “What happened?” Does that happen to you? Where you have been super busy all day, but the piles of paper are higher, the phone list is deeper, and your results have not improved. But all day you were answering emails, making calls, filing reports, and doing all the “stuff” that needed to get done. If you can relate, then let’s release an overwhelmed sigh together.
You see, no matter how busy you get, it never seems to end because there’s really no end to the availability of work to do. The trick is how you harness your energy and take back control of your schedule, your life, and ultimately – your sanity.
What kind of light are you?
Without directly looking at it, think about the sun in the sky. Can you feel the heat? (Well maybe not in December, but you can imagine it) The sun is blasting you with billions of kilowatts of energy every single day. Just relentlessly sending out all that light, heat, and energy. And if you aren’t careful, you may get a sunburn. This is because the light from the sun is diffused, so by the time it reaches you, it has little impact.
But let’s have some fun and talk about lasers for a second! A laser has only a few kilowatts of energy. But a laser, because of its tight focus, has the ability to cut through steel.
Now look at YOUR days. Are you diffusing or focusing your energy? Are you making imperceivable effects in a whole bunch of areas because your efforts are spread out, or are you going deep on a few select projects and really making an impact?
The misconception of being busy
I am guilty for this as well! It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to be the Jack (or Jill) of all trades. Especially because there are so many amazing opportunities out there and ways to do things. Plus we’re bombarded every day with messages telling us about the latest and greatest tool we must use. I recently spoke on a panel about the multi-generational workforce and the question about social media came up. My opinion is that social media, while an amazing tool, has made many people just busier and less effective. Now, individuals and organizations are trying to be everywhere at all times and be on every platform. Instead, they end up saying nothing because their effect gets diffused. Instead, we need to pick one or two key channels and get really good at them.
This past year, my online business really started to grow and I have been able to connect with people around the world. It’s been cool. But, I found myself getting caught trying to be everywhere and being nowhere at the same time. So this month, I am taking the time to regroup, stop trying to be a sun, and work on impression of a laser for 2015. I am very excited to build out my plan. If you want to help me, please feel free to email me and let me know what you would like to see from me next year. That will definitely help me focus. And I want to help you achieve your goals too.
One lesson I would like to pass on to you is around that feeling of guilt I get when I realize I am not being effective. Or perhaps I see others who have the laser focus I wish I had. When that happens, my first instinct is to feel sorry for myself and then do nothing. Perhaps grab a whiskey and watch Walking Dead or something. Hey, that’s normal human behavior, right? But when that happens, I have to remind myself that I KNOW what to do. I take my own advice about “action over mind over matter” and I sit down and write out a plan. Or perhaps, like I did the other week, I organize my office and make it an environment where I can work in a state of flow. Without a plan to follow, I find that it gets very easy to flounder and just get “busy.” So when I am feeling a little “poor me,” I just ask myself “where’s your plan?”Here’s the secret – I have never felt sorry for myself when I had a plan with goals I was actually working on. Never. It only happens when I am simply winging it. How about you?
Dealing with the day to day is normal. We usually all have about five or six issues that arise, and then we get caught dealing with them. Our days become loosely held together with duct tape. For most professionals and entrepreneurs, the URGENT is the enemy of the IMPORTANT.
How can you be a laser? (7 Steps)
I hope that all makes sense to you. If you are feeling like you are spinning your wheels, running in the hamster wheel, or simply overwhelmed, it is most likely time to stop and make a plan. You don’t have to go crazy with it, but build something you can work on. Even for a few minutes a day. You will find that working on action items (and then completing them) will dramatically improve your motivation.
Most people go through life without a plan. And those that DO have a plan, typically don’t have it written out. There are shockingly few people you will meet that actually have some sort of written goals they follow. If you don’t know what you are supposed to do each day, how do you know you did it? Don’t feel like you have to go crazy and map out your life into minute details, either. Some of the most brilliantly effective plans are those that are simple. Follow the steps below to take back control and get that laser-focus you need next year.
1) Make a list
Start with a list of everything you want to get done. Get it all out there – start with big ones, then all the small ones. Make a list of your priorities that keep getting pushed back each week. By taking the time to create that master list, you will actually find you de-stress a bit. Even when the list is overwhelming, you can get a sense of peace once it is written out. I find that once I get that initial list down, over the following few days, I add a few items to it I may have missed. Each time I add something, I feel a bit more organized, even if I haven’t even done anything yet.
2) Check it twice
Review the list for priorities. Move those priorities to the top. Then, start to filter the items and determine which ones you can actually discard, which ones you need to keep, and perhaps some of them that can be combined together. Don’t spend too much time here sorting.
3) Break big items into bite size morsels
If an item on your list looks more like a project, you should break it down into tasks or activities you need to do. Sometimes, we don’t know where to start, so we don’t do anything. Not only will this make your life easier, but you will be able to start to celebrate the small wins long before the project is complete. For example, your item might be “get finances in order.” Well that’s a big project and probably a weight on your shoulders at the same time. For me, the first step would be to sort through all my papers and make sure I have filed everything finance. So I can then grab all my receipts and file them. Check. Get all my bills and file them. Check. Pay any outstanding bills. Check. And so on. This project may have about ten to twenty smaller tasks that are actually not that hard to do. And as you get them completed, you will start to feel energized!
4) Pick a few to start
I always find it funny when I help someone set goals and they go crazy with them. The temptation sometimes is to try and schedule all of it after the list is made, and they end up with this massively terrifying plan. The trick is to play the long game. Pick a group of tasks you think you would like to complete in the next week and schedule them in your calendar. Have your plan ready. Your goal will be to get about 90% of your to do list done each week. So maybe just choose between 3 and 7 things to do.
5) Get to work
Take action on those 3-7 items and get them done. No excuses. You have probably heard of the term “analysis paralysis” and it happens way too often. Have a look at my post Focus for 90 Minutes and Get More Done for some insights around this. Once you have made the commitment with your plan, the key will be to take action on it. Each day, each week, and each month. Set a 90 day plan in the new year and don’t let anything stop you.
6) Review, evaluate, improve
Don’t skip this step. As part of your process improvement project, you want to see how you are doing – good or bad. This is not about judging yourself, but instead just simply seeing how you did. What worked, what didn’t? How can you improve? What would make it more enjoyable? How could you turn these into long-term habits? Too often, people quit on their goals and lose focus because things are slow and they simply get bored. You may get overconfident after a success or a string of successes. Or perhaps you are really only chasing “shiny stuff” or the next big deal. If you find yourself nodding your head, you need a plan.
7) Make it fun and make it yours
One weird thing all us humans like to do is punish ourselves. If you’re like me, you’ve already punished yourself for not having a plan, right? Well, this process of taking back control should get you excited instead of nervous. If you break down your activities into manageable chunks, you shouldn’t get overwhelmed. You see, so many people want to hit that home run, but what you will learn from people who have been successful is that they pieced together a series of small wins, consistently, over time to achieve massive results. So have fun knocking these small steps off your list and celebrate each one when you do. Don’t punish yourself if you mess up, just keep pushing forward.
8) Ideally, make a 90 day plan
Maybe you want to take action on your own goals in 2015. Have a look at my 90 Day Sprint Guide that may help you get some laser-focus in your life. 13 weeks is a great timeline to get the pulse of your business. And after each 90 days, you come up for air, review, and set new priorities. Look at your year as a series of 90 day plans. You can rock out the first 90 days of 2015 simply getting your systems in order, building a foundation for success, learning, and setting a baseline for the rest of the year. The second 90 days can be focused on tracking your results, evaluating, and growing. The third 90 days you should then begin to look at performance, improvements, and efficiencies. And to close off the year strong, the last 90 days you can focus on solidifying your capabilities.
If you want to make the most of next year, take some time this month and set some goals for yourself. Break them down and see just where you think you can get started. Forget about he hundreds of things you COULD do, and pick the highest impact activities for the short term. The rest can wait. You’ll see that by doing this, you can absolutely transform your results and your mindset. if you need help, reach out to me and we can chat about your goals specifically. Stay tuned for some of the cool announcements that will be coming from my goal setting over the next month. I am excited and I hope you take the time to create your own excitement too.