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Race Against The Clock: 15 Time-Management Lessons Should Be Learnt In Our 20s

Race Against The Clock: 15 Time-Management Lessons Should Be Learnt In Our 20s

Time management means getting the right things done, not more things done. It’s about identifying the goals that are most important right now and the most efficient ways to accomplish those goals. Here are 15 lessons to accomplish more goals in your entry-level job.

1. You can’t possibly get everything done on your To-Do List, so stop trying.

It’s a tough reality to come to terms with but a necessary one, especially for professionals working in a fast-paced environment. By simply understanding that you can’t do it all, you’ll bypass unnecessary stress and be more equipped to check off the most important items from your list.

2. Learning how to prioritize is key.

When under the gun, workforce newbies need to learn how to identify which tasks directly contribute to fulfilling immediate corporate goals – like arranging a meeting with a prospect – and which ones – like organizing files – can be reserved for a less strenuous week.

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3. No two brains are alike.

People listen and hear things differently, which always leads to communication issues and misunderstandings, ultimately contributing to lost productivity. When given directives, repeat what you understand back to your boss to make sure that you are both on the same page. Also, try taking a workplace behavioral assessment – they work wonders for understanding different communication styles and how to approach them.

4. By knowing when to multitask, you minimize the risk of shotty work.

We’ve been taught that multi-tasking is a crucial soft skill. But the truth is working several complex projects simultaneously can have disastrous effects on the brain. Cognitive ability is best when spent on one task at a time. While it’s okay to multitask sometimes, many projects require your full attention. A good worker knows when it’s okay to take a phone call while finishing up an email, and when he needs to close himself off from the world to finish a proposal for a client.

5. Being a workaholic isn’t always a good thing.

Taking the time to step away from your work and relax can be the perfect medicine for an overloaded brain. When faced with a desk piled mile-high with paperwork or up against a difficult problem, sometimes it’s best (for your productivity levels and your sanity) to take a deep breath and come back to it with fresh eyes.

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6. More hours do not equal more productivity.

I’m sure you’ve heard all about the decline of the 9-5 worker. Companies have been embracing flexible work hours and remote work options to appeal to the millennial generation. Studies show that people work smarter and better when they’re judged on the outcomes of their projects rather than the time they spend doing them.

7. Coming to terms with your own limits makes you a pro.

Some people lack organizational skills and are bogged down at the end of the week by an office that appears to have encountered a tornado. Others are so detail-oriented that the bigger picture often escapes them. Whatever your limits are, figure them out soon and own them – not everyone’s perfect. What makes someone successful is how he or she responds and deals with inadequacies.

8. Inhale today’s potential and exhale yesterday’s failures.

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t bring your emotions to work.” Well here it is again. Beating yourself up over a bad performance review or a fight with a friend will surely put a damper on your work ethic. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to view each new day as a new opportunity.

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9. There’s a reason why successful people always ask, “What’s the point?”

Great leaders don’t have time to take every meeting that comes their way or seize each and every opportunity. They achieve their goals by ensuring that everything they do is purposeful and results-oriented.

10. We deal better with hard deadlines.

Deadlines help keep us on track and organized. Assigning someone with an open-ended task always leads to chaos, missed communications, and frustrated tones in the office. People work best when they know exactly what they need to do and when it needs to get it done by.

11. Knowing your “peak hours” will enhance productivity.

Everyone works to a different tune. It’s important to become self aware by studying your own behavior to find out what times during the day you work best. Are you a night owl or an early bird? If you love watching the sunrise, arrange to work on strenuous projects in the a.m. and reserve easy stuff for later on.

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12. Delegating doesn’t make you lazy – it makes you efficient.

Young workers and die-hard perfectionists often shy away from delegating tasks to others. If your swamped with a project or you run into an issue that’s not within your jurisdiction, ask for help. Trying to be superman and accomplish everything will lead to mistakes and wasted time.

13. Procrastinating is ok…sometimes.

Everyone has parts of their job they absolutely hate. Whether it’s spreadsheets or public speaking, we all have one. Ease into your work by accomplishing the tasks you enjoy most first. By the time you get to those spreadsheets, you’ll be “in the zone” and more likely to crush those insufferable responsibilities.

14. Tracking your time is the best way to hold yourself accountable.

By logging the time you spend on certain projects throughout the day, you can see how your time is really being spent. People are always surprised by how often distractions and white noise get them off track.

15. There’s always a way.

If you don’t trust your social media addiction and are on a tight deadline, find an app that will hold you accountable. The Cold Turkey app, for example, blocks Internet access for a specified amount of time so you have no other choice but to get work done.

Featured photo credit: VFS Digital Design via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

1. Determine Your “Why”

Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

“Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

2. Write Down Your Goal

If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

3. Set a SMART Goal

A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

     

    By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

    • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
    • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
    • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
    • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
    • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

    Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    4. Take One Step at a Time

    Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

    Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

    For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

    This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

    5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

    With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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    For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

    The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

    Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    6. Schedule Your Tasks

    Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

    What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

    For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

    Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

    While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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    7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

    Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

    Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

    You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

    8. Check off Items as You Go

    You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

    There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

    If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

    9. Review and Reset as Necessary

    Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

    If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

    The Bottom Line

    When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

    More on Goal Action Plans

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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