It’s so much easier to just ride the waves and drift along. But, my ultimate goal is to be more mindful and intentional with my days. I need to look beyond and keep my sights on the horizon and NOT get lost in the daily shuffle of things. It’s definitely harder, but so much more rewarding.
After gobbling up as much as I can (and continue to do so) on productivity and time management, and revisiting past practices that have worked for me, I plan to start doing the following to overcome feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, unmotivated, scattered and guilty, which have thus far led me into failing at being purposeful and productive. The concepts aren’t earth shattering or new ideas by any means, instead they’re actually quite simple. However, while they’re simple in theory, we (more so I) find ways to resist them and have more difficulty executing them in real life.
SET MY SIGHTS ON THE HORIZON
The first thing I need to do to get myself on track is to go back to the drawing board and ask myself the following:
- What are my values and priorities?
- How do I envision myself living my life to the fullest and in alignment to my values?
Thinking about what’s most important to me and what my priorities are will guide me in deciding how to spend my time and live my life. If something comes up that I think I should be doing, but isn’t in line with my priorities, then it wouldn’t really be something I should be doing — or it at the least shouldn’t take precedence over my priorities. Often times, we think we ought to be doing certain things, based on others’ expectations, or at times our own false expectations, but if we dig deeper, we realize that thing isn’t of true importance to us and we really don’t need to be wasting our energy or spending our limited time on them.
Next up, envisioning the life I want to be living — a life I love and feel fulfillment from. I will try my best not hold back on what I want it to be. I’m quite the realist and sometimes it keeps me tethered to the ground. We only live once so I need to go for it and shoot for the moon. Rooted in my values, how I envision this “pie in the sky” life will be my target destination. I need to clearly visualize my end game, come up with my BIG PICTURE, to have a much better shot at making it happen. With my big picture in sight, I will have more clarity and focus on what I am striving for, laying the foundation to know what I want and where I’m headed.
Then, I need to figure out how I intend to make my way. By setting my sights on the horizon, I can map out the course for my destination by creating a game plan to bring me closer to my target. This is where goal setting will come into play. In this step, I need to think of the specific end results I want — not action items. I need to maintain a long-term perspective because just jotting down action items can become short-sighted without a master plan formed first. Based on how I envision my life to be, I will work backwards, creating a 5 year plan, a 3 year plan, and lastly a 1 year plan. What do I want to have achieved in 5 years, 3 years and within a year? By figuring out what I want to have attained in the future, I will be better able to focus on the things that will bring me closer to these objectives.
As I shared previously, I am tired of being aimless and completing meaningless tasks in an effort to simply do something and cross things off my to do list. Looking beyond and keeping my sights on the horizon with written long-term goals will help me have the direction and focus on a target so I can make more mindful decisions and take more intentional actions. In the end, I hope to be making meaningful progress toward my intended destination, rather than coasting or running around in circles aimlessly.
STAY ON TOP OF THE BITE-SIZED PIECES
Thinking I need to have achieved all these humungous life aspirations in 5 years can be daunting to say the least. Which is why, I’m going to break down my horizon into “closer” destinations or stops. Breaking things down into smaller pieces will make them more manageable and less overwhelming — making my BIG PiCTURE goals more attainable, rather than just be wishful thinking.
Breaking my BIG PICTURE down to one year out isn’t where I stop. I need to keep breaking it down into smaller goals, followed by actionable tasks, so I can actually start taking action. Sometimes, the hardest part to getting started is knowing what to do and where to begin. But by keeping my sights on the horizon before burying myself in the weeds, I can more easily take deliberate steps to get closer to that horizon, rather than simply do busywork.
I used to be able to do this easily — break things down into bite-size pieces, which I can easily act on to pursue the mother load of whatever project I had. However, in the recent years, I seem to have lost this art, or at least, have been struggling with it. I think one factor to this was not really knowing what I truly wanted, not having a clear picture of where I want to be. By taking the time to sort this out for myself will give me the starting point to get back to this habit.
Now, my roadmap is only as good as my intent and actions to use it. To further keep myself from feeling overwhelmed, I need to take that first step and actually keep following through by making sure I stay on top of my things and not letting them pile up into an unmanageable amount. I need to allocate time to do the things I plan to do, simply start chipping away, so they get handled. It’s when my pile of things to do grow into what seems to be an endless list of undone items that begin to weigh heavily on me and overwhelm me, which promotes my inability to take action and remain stuck. By staying on top of what I need to do, not only would I feel the satisfaction of getting closer to my target destination, but I would feel less stressed as a whole and more inclined to keep taking action. Similar to Newton’s first law, an object at rest stays at rest, while an object in motion stays in motion. I need to act rather than remain stuck, to take that first step so I can get the momentum to keep going with the hope it would snowball into a frenzy of intentional productivity with my end game in sight.
PUT HORSE BLINDERS ON
Knowing my big picture will serve as my filter to help me be more selective with what I should truly focus my time and energy on, versus doing something that is “nice to do” or something we do because we’ve just been doing things that way and have forgotten why we even do them in the first place.
Is something bringing me closer to my overall goals? If not, forget it. I must stay focused on the meaningful pieces.
Right now, a huge challenge of mine is staying focused. I’ve been easily caught up in the whirlwind of all these awesome projects to start and try, or the things I think I “should” be doing. I end up dipping my finger here and there, only to end with several unfinished projects and a feeling of defeat. I need to keep my sights set on the horizon by putting some horse blinders on to avoid the oh so many distractions out there and stay focused on the things that are important to me and will bring me closer to my goals.
First, I need to clear out the white noise. Nowadays, we not only have an abundance of information, but we don’t even need to seek them out, they always find a way to us — through our inboxes, our phones, on the road, etc. It’s hard not to get sidetracked by all we encounter. I need to be proactive in minimizing these distractions. I will reduce the number of blogs I follow. Then, I will reduce my email subscriptions to those that I really read. Right now, I get so much email that I just scan my inbox, read only a percentage of those emails and leave the rest and sitting there. I also heard about Un.RollMe from somewhere and will try that to limit the emails. These will whittle down all the incoming distractions and temptations. Yes, I may miss some super awesome stuff out there, but I’m going to live.
Second, I need to be a lot more selective with the tasks and projects I choose to do. So, I will need to filter, filter, filter. Are they aligned with my values and long-term goals? Are they time sensitive? Do I have the time for it now or at a later time?
There might be some things that we do need to do in our everyday lives that may be difficult to see as an extension of our big picture. Cleaning our house for instance seems more like a chore. But if having a rejuvenating and calming home for you and your family is a priority for you, which it is for me, then yes cleaning does make the list of things I need to be spending my time on. But do I need stress myself out if things aren’t perfect in my home? Have it be spotless at all times and be Pinterest-worthy? No. As long as it works for me and my family, I don’t need to stress myself out that things aren’t always in place or that I have a picture perfect home all the time.
In reducing the noise and being intentional about what I choose to do will help me stay focused instead of feeling so scattered and be left with so many open holes and unfinished projects.
EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE
This is definitely a no-brainer. Tired? Easy … get some rest. Yet, why am I so stubborn about it!? I love me some sleep! I can easily sleep 9-10 hours every night if I had the option. But with work and responsibilities, I don’t really have this luxury. Or do I? Sometimes, I think I just tell myself this. But really, I can probably alter my routine so I can get more rest. When the new baby arrives, that’ll be a different story. But for now, I just need to put my big girl pants on and start being more responsible with my time.
At night, when I feel like I’m just done for the day, I like to unwind by vegging out in front of the TV and refuse to go to bed. And I end up staying up later than I really should. If I adjust my nightly routine by cutting my TV time in half and go to bed earlier, I can catch more sleep while still enjoy my guilty pleasure. In addition, I can also forgo the time suck of a habit of phone surfing in bed right before I go to sleep. By adjusting these two habits, I can get the amount of sleep I need and hopefully equal to (fingers crossed) more energy the next day. If my daughter has a bedtime, why shouldn’t I?
Also, since I know I am not as productive in the wee hours of the night, perhaps switching out my work time would be a good solution. In the recent months, I keep planning and trying to work on my stuff after my daughter’s gone to bed at night. But it has for the most part remained just that — plans and failed attempts. If I want to work on my stuff, like this blog, I should try waking up earlier to work on it before I start my day job instead. And with me sleeping earlier, I would be better able to get out of bed earlier. The bonus to this would be, I’d probably get a good mood booster doing so by having been productive and accomplishing something important to me so early in the day before my family wakes and I start working. I also won’t have it dangling over me later in the day, that I need to be doing something else later that night.
BUILD SOME DISCIPLINE AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
At work, if I say I’m going to get something done by a certain time, I get it done because I know someone is counting on me. And at home, I also manage to do a good chunk of our household chores like grocery shopping and laundry. If I don’t get these done, my family won’t have anything to eat (which London will remind me of) or clean clothes to wear (which Paul will ask me about).
But when it comes to things I want to do for myself, it’s just me counting on it and it’s so much easier to let myself down, I guess. My to do lists are my own and no one really knows them but myself. No one outside myself holds me accountable to it. I know, I know, it’s my life and I should hold myself accountable for my your own actions — or INACTIONS — in my case. I’ve just been really struggling with this bit — balancing my needs with that of my family’s and other responsibilities — in the recent years. Maybe I’m just getting old and willpower depletes as you get old. Why do you think I’m writing this down? So I CAN START holding myself accountable.
While I was aimlessly phone surfing one day, I watched this short video of Former Navy Seals commanders, Jocko Willing and Leif Babin. In it, they share how it’s really discipline we need, rather than motivation to be able to weather things even when they get tough. They say motivation is this “fickle little emotion thing” that’s just not consistent. And it’s so true! They said “It’s about the discipline about holding the course, knowing what you have to do and making it happen.” And this resonated with me. Like I said before, I’d get these fleeting moments of motivation only to be left with none after a long day — sometimes even earlier than that. As I think back, it wasn’t really motivation that kept me going in the past when I was more of an energizer bunny. They’re right, I was a lot more diligent and disciplined. I set my schedule and I stuck to it. I need to retrain myself to have that same discipline. If I can do it at work and for my family, I can do it outside work and for myself. If anything, having myself as the stakeholder of my goals and dreams should be a top priority. In putting myself first, I take better care of myself and am a better person all around to take care of others.
C’EST LA VIE
I need to stop the blame game and let go of the guilt I frequently feel when I fail to do something. I need to stop beating myself up about the past. It’s done. I just need to learn from it and move forward.
Then I need to change and manage my expectations — remind myself that I have a growing family and a full-time job that take up majority of my time. As a result, I will NOT be able to do everything, even if I wanted to do. Being productive 100% of the time is not the solution, nor is it good for one’s well-being. We all need to relax and recharge as well. It’s all about identifying my priorities and finding the right balance to handle what I need to.
While I will work on building up my self-discipline (and I know this will take time), managing my time better and hold myself more accountable, I will still give myself some flexibility. Whatever the reason, I need to cut myself some slack. I easily do this for others. I need to treat myself the same way. It’s natural to slip up and at time get off course.