Whether you realize it or not, every day you are writing the script to your story. With every choice and decision about your time, talent, and resources you are putting a stamp on your legacy. With every great story, there are central characters, role players, antagonists, successes, setbacks, a key challenge, and a pursuit of persevering through the key challenge.
Does life seem to be passing you by? Are you writing the story that you want to create? If the answer is a resounding “No!” or you are unsure and you feel like you are going through the motions, here are 3 steps that may help you in this process:
- Reflect – Take time to reflect by scheduling a personal retreat. You may not have time or the resources to schedule a 6-month sabbatical, but you can make a choice to take a day or a weekend retreat to assess where you are, where you have been, and where you are going. One thing that has helped me in times of reflection in my journey is the power or prayer and listening to God for direction, wisdom, and clarity. Another thing has been asking myself the question that Ralph Waldo Emerson used to ask Henry David Thoreau and his other friends, “What has become clear since we last met?”
- Redirect – This may involve redirecting your energy, your priorities, and your pursuits. Based on an honest assessment of your strengths, passions, and purpose in life, you have an opportunity to redirect your efforts toward the right road in life. While we do not have ultimate control of the events in our lives and the world around us, we must be active and engaged if we want to affect the outcome of our story. Life was never intended to be a spectator sport no matter how good the seats or how tasty the halftime snacks are.
- Run – As an endurance runner, I love to run! I even like to walk fast when I am going somewhere. Running allows me to be active in a journey and committed to a goal. In life, we must be active in our journey and committed to purposeful decisions that will achieve our goal. While you may only gain clarity about the next step, trust and faith allow you to take that step with a determination that you are on the right path. We were created to embrace our calling and run with a purpose toward the right pursuits.
The path is often determined by asking the right questions to gain clarity through the right answers. You get one shot at life – one story to craft and create something beautiful, memorable, significant, and impactful! Decide today to be actively engaged in creating the story you were intended to live!
Question: What do you think your purpose or calling in life is? How are you impacting the people in your story? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Structuring your day helps pave the way. In order to achieve your goals, you have to develop an action plan with steps to accomplish them. And an action plan is more easily executed when you have structure to your days and weeks. You can’t just haphazardly approach the time that you have and then hope things will get done. Knowing yourself and knowing how to make the most of your time and your moments are the keys to goal achievement.
But, what is the best structure for you? Is there one plan or schedule that is right for everyone? Or is it more of a process that can be tailored towards your needs? Through experimentation, research, and coaching high performers in sports, business, and life, we have found the following to be effective in facilitating a flow to your life:
- Create An Ideal Week – An ideal week consists of a template for how you want to approach your week. It is a picture of what your best days look like. Some people like to create a template that highlights blocks of time for things such as phone calls, client meetings, strategy and planning, and office tasks. They then insert specific items into the daily template blocks each week. Other people I have coached use a strategy of “Plan Weekly, Execute Daily” where they invest time on Sunday night mapping out a game plan for the calls they need to make, the highest priority things they need to do, the workouts they must make time for, and the people they must see based on the week. Regardless of your style and preference, the point is to get in the habit of scheduling your priorities (proactive), not just prioritizing your schedule (reactive) as Stephen Covey so wisely noted in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s your week. Make it count!
- Attack To Do’s Before Ten (A.M.) – There are several books that have highlighted the concept of getting your most important things done in the morning. Most people don’t do this and instead place a priority on doing urgent/non-urgent and sometimes non-important things like checking email and Facebook and other social media. I have found that I am most productive and feel best about the days when I knock the most important things out in the morning. I feel highly creative – especially after a great cup of coffee and a morning quiet time – and seem to find a flow that energizes me. When I get things done early – especially the right things – the rest of the day seems to sail along, and I find meaning, purpose, and impact in my moments. It also allows me to strategically consider and plan for what I want to accomplish in the days that follow.
- Assign Tasks That Are Appropriate For The Time Of Day – This point is a corollary to some of the other techniques. You need to understand yourself in terms of when you are most creative, when you need to do routine tasks, when you are most energetic, etc. You don’t want to be meeting with clients when you are lethargic. Plan time for tasks that are appropriate to your personality and style. For example, planning for creative and strategic things for many people is most appropriately scheduled during a mid-morning block, because many people feel more enlightened during those times. Responding to email and returning phone calls can be blocked for 30-minute windows before you are leaving for lunch or at the end of the day in what sales expert Todd Duncan in his excellent book Time Traps calls an “efficiency zone.”
- Protect Time For Planning And Strategy – Many people set a goal that requires planning and developing a strategy, yet they never make time for strategic thinking and planning in their schedule. The most common reason for this is that it seems esoteric and non-productive to set a block of time in your schedule from 9-11 AM labeled “Planning.” You also fear how your colleagues and leaders might react if they saw something like that on your schedule thinking you were goofing off. Yet, this may be one of the most important time blocks that you keep with yourself if used in the right way. How do you expect to accomplish your goals if you never make time for developing a plan to achieve them? Breaking your goals down into actionable steps demands time in your schedule for planning.
- Make Time To “Sharpen The Saw” – The key to developing, growing, and living a healthy and fulfilling life must include developing yourself in all four quadrants of your life – mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Stephen Covey called this “sharpening the saw.” You would never cut something with a dull blade, and you never want to approach your life with a deflated, worn-out, and half-hearted effort. The myth and trap that many people fall into is to wear themselves out in order to accomplish their goals. While high achievers will go through periods of intense time, we have found that they always make time for recovery in terms of rest, contemplation and reflection, and recharging.
- Be Present – Finally, in order to achieve anything in life, you must be present. This involves not just showing up physically, but being there in the moment mentally and emotionally as well. Whether you are business leader, a sales executive, a parent, or a competitor in sports, your teammates, clients, prospective clients, and family want more than your physical presence. They want to know that you have thought about and prepared for this moment. They want to make sure that they have your attention – your head and your heart – and that you are fully engaged in this moment. If you are not present, you are going to miss so many moments this year and wonder where the days went and why you missed the opportunity to accomplish your goals, maximize your potential, and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Make it a point of emphasis this year to go further than just announcing resolutions and writing down goals. Develop an action plan for your goals and execute this plan with discipline, consistency, and passion structured by a daily flow that works for you. You and the people you lead and influence will be so glad you did!
Question: What techniques do you use to be productive and proactive in planning your life and achieving your goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
As I crossed the finish line, I knew it was over. Not just the end of a 26.2 mile journey, but the end of a quest for an elusive goal that I had been pursuing for what seemed like eternity. I checked my watch and realized that I had accomplished my goal of a personal best in the marathon as well as a time that would qualify me to register for one of the most prestigious and historical marathon races in the nation – The Boston Marathon!
- Learn From the Past – I have written about this in other blog posts as well as my Moments book. Success and impact hinge on our ability to learn from the past – both great moments and moments we did not expect – in order to move ahead. Our human nature often reverts to the bad moments, which can sideline us from ever thinking that we will have success in the future, while we discount and forget about the great moments that we experienced. As you begin this year, I would encourage you to look back at the previous year being grateful for all of the moments that have led you to where you are today. Record recurring themes in a notebook and use that as wisdom and inspiration for what you will set your sights on accomplishing this year and the impact that you will make.
- Identify Your Roles and Priorities – It is very important that you understand each of the roles that you play in life and what your most important priorities are. When we step away from our daily schedules and think about these, we realize that our calendar is often out of sync with how we should be investing our time. We travel day by day and week by week prioritizing and reacting to our schedule instead of scheduling our priorities. In this new year, make it a habit to weekly review your roles and priorities, and ensure that your schedule is in sync with how you should invest your precious time.
- Define Your Goals – Goals are important in that they give us a marker to measure our progress and growth. We can either aimlessly wander through life wishing that our dreams would become a reality, or we can write them down, review them often, and advance the ball toward them on a daily basis. The choice is up to you, but it begins with accurately and succinctly defining specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-lined goals in order to provide a lane for us to travel. You are 4-5 times more likely to accomplish your goals by writing them down, because it reveals commitment and trust.
- Develop Your Action Plan – Dreams become goals, and goals must be supported by an action plan in order to give you specific instructions on HOW you are going to get there. I may set a goal of reading 24 books in a year, but if I don’t develop an action plan and break my goal down into simple measurable steps, I will be trying to read a lot of books on the last day of this year. You may want to train for a 5K or half marathon this year, but you have to develop a training plan to get there. Whatever your well-defined goals are, develop the proper action plan to help you achieve them.
- Engage An Accountability Group – This last step is for the truly bold. It is one thing to wish something would happen. It is another to write it down. When we tell people about it and verbalize it, our probability of accomplishing it go up significantly, because we now have people who will ask about how we are doing toward reaching that goal. They keep us accountable in the process and on the days where we don’t feel like going farther, and they cheer us on and remind us when we take positive steps toward reaching that goal. You may want to form a group or just reach out to a few individuals, but make sure that you incorporate accountability into your plan this year.
…And What You Can Do About It!
I hate starting a blog with a negative statement! I am an optimist by nature, so I don’t like hearing the reasons why I can’t do something. I am also a coach who helps people achieve their goals by focusing on the path to success. I don’t like to dwell on the reasons why they can’t or won’t reach their dreams. Having said that, I do think it is important to identify the enemy – the distractions that could hinder someone from reaching their potential and distract them from accomplishing their goals.