Like many people, I’ve taken time over the last few months to think about what I would like to see in the rest of the year.
It struck me that the most important element of moving forward in an area is not so much about resolving to achieve a goal or even deciding on a routine (though those are extremely important). Rather the most essential ingredient is a commitment to pay attention to the area in which you want to move forward.
Here are three practical steps to put this truth into action in 2016:
1. Decide Where to Focus: To keep us from getting completely overloaded, our mind filters out a lot of information. Although this serves a very useful purpose in keeping us from shutting down due to over stimulation, our natural filtering system can cause problems if it makes us oblivious to information that should be in our conscious awareness. For example, almost all of my work activities involve me sitting at my computer. I enjoy having a lot of variety in mental activities from doing coaching calls to writing articles to answering e-mail. But the nature of my work leads to very little variation in my physical position, which can leave me feeling stiff and sore. This year, one of my goals is to be heighten my awareness of my movement or lack or movement throughout my day.
2. Choose Specific Actions: After you’ve decided where to focus, a critical next step is choosing specific actions that will lead you toward your goal. I encourage my coaching clients to make them small and specific. For example, I’m committing to 10 minutes a day on something related to stretching and strengthening. That could mean doing a yoga video or listening to calming music and focusing on breathing or using a tennis ball to release trigger points. I don’t want to be so strict with myself that it feels burdensome or boring, but I do want to make progress. If your area of focus is multi-faceted, such as improving your relationship with a work colleague, you may want to frame your activity in this way: Each Monday morning, I will think about one activity I can do to improve our collaboration.
3. Rely on Reminders: Old habits die hard so without regular reminders you’re likely to not do what you intended to do: not intentionally but completely unintentionally because you simply forgot. Instead of trying to increase your willpower or discipline, set up the right reminders to prompt you to do what you want to do. This could look like a recurring event on your calendar, an alarm on your phone, or a sticky note on your computer. The type of reminder system you have isn’t as important as that it cues you to pay attention to the right thing at the right time. Personally, I’ve written down my areas of focus and related actions within my journal that I look at every morning and evening.
I love this quote from Viktor Frankl “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…” I’m confident as we focus on the actions that will lead us in the direction we want to go instead of pressuring ourselves to achieve certain results, we can all experience much peace, joy, and growth this year.
About Real Life E
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E® also encourages Christians to align themselves with God’s heart through Divine Time Management.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Harvard Business Review published her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.