This year, I will be different.
This week, I will be different.
Today, I will be different.
We tell ourselves again and again and again… but often we don’t see any lasting change because we don’t develop systems that will help us to be different. Many people like the idea of “Put First Things First” from Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but how many people do you see consistently maintaining the important when the urgent starts to encroach on their lives?
Well, when I saw the “First Things First” document and checkbox list to match from one of my mentors, Tonya Ramsey, I was blown away! I knew I had to share her approach with you.
Here’s an outline (that I picked up from Tonya) about how to clearly define what’s most important to you and then translate it into a system that you can do on autopilot on even your least motivated days.
First Things First Plan
Mission Statement: Write down in one or two sentences what you would like to see in your life. It doesn’t have to be eloquent. Even a bulleted list of items like: relational, spiritual, physical, and professional wellness is a good start.
Specific Goals: For each main point, write down specific goals, and if necessary, subgoals. Here’s a great example of how Tonya turns her mission of making family and friends a priority into specific steps:
1. Implement a Sunday planning time to schedule weekly commitments to connect with my family and friends
a) Phone son/daughter-in-law on cell driving home from work.
b) Set weekly visit with grandchildren.
c) Assign one friendship for the week
d) Schedule dinner out with family one night/week
2. Mentally schedule 15 minutes each night to focus on talking with my husband.
Tonya has specific goals and actions for each area of her life. (Clarifying exactly what you want is a huge part of the process.) But where Tonya really supercharges and cements her plans is through a weekly “checklist” that includes all of the “first things” that she wants to accomplish in a week.
I have an example of her weekly checklist at the bottom of this post. And feel free to e-mail me for a “Customizable Weekly Checklist Excel Sheet” and start to experience the joy of turning “first things first” into a lasting part of your life. Basically, in the left column you write down your “Core Priority Activities,” such as get up at 6 a.m., exercise, or do a weekly planning meeting. Then next to that goal you have a box for each day and at the end a box with your “Weekly Goal,” like four checkmarks (i.e. days) in the row for healthy dinners.
For some people this will be the perfect solution for turning their priorities into measurable actions. For others, something this extensive may be a little overwhelming. You might want to start off with a short checklist like “exercise,” “leave the office by 6 p.m.,” and “call a friend.” Then make a target number of “checkmarks” for the week and see how you do. If this system works for you, you can start to add more activities to the list.
Wishing you an end of frustration and a beginning of brilliant, lasting change!
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a trainer who focuses on “Time Strategies to Create a Brilliant Life in a Burnt-Out World.” Women in business and Gen Y professionals enjoy her fresh take on work/life balance as succeeding in business and life.