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10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.

10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.

Here—again in no particular order—are 10 more ways to transform your working life. Maybe you should try them.

  1. Slow down. Give yourself time and space. Never be in more of a hurry than you have to be. Allow time for thinking, musing, just noodling around in your head with no apparent purpose. Give space in your thinking for ideas you haven’t had yet; allow openings for sniffing out the ideas of others. Haste is the enemy of creativity. Being busy all the time is a great way to stop any possibility of breakthroughs. You won’t break out of your old habits by rushing. When people are under pressure, they don’t have energy to try anything new. They reach for whatever they’ve done before, or for some supposedly “tried-and-true” answer. They don’t believe they have time to take risks with change. As a result, they rush headlong down the same old paths into the same old messes. Refuse to be hurried and surprising ideas and opportunities may present themselves.
  2. When you think you’ve gone absolutely as far as you can, keep going. You’ve just reached the starting point. Breakthrough can’t happen until you pass the boundaries you believe are there in your life and thought. If you find a boundary, be happy. You’ve just found what you need to break through. Learning and creative thinking are your only sources of sustainable competitive advantage. Never let anything close them down.
  3. Take your mind and thinking on trips away. Deliberately step outside your comfort zone. See what you can find. You may come back a changed person. Conservatism is the philosophy of always sticking with what you have and trying to defend it against change. It’s a hopeless attempt. The best, longest-lasting and most valuable ideas remain because they continually adapt to the times. There’s a word for things that don’t change . . . dead. The world is bigger, stranger, more wonderful, and less predictable than you imagine. You won’t find it limited to programs on your TV, or what you can find on the Internet, or what the media present to you. Go out there and look for yourself.
  4. Listen. Listen to everyone you can. Really listen. You don’t learn by talking about yourself and your own experience. You learn by listening to the ideas and experiences of others. By listening to the ideas of those around you, you can pick up whatever’s useful. Even the things you reject have taught you something—if only what to avoid. Everyone you talk with can bring you learning opportunities you might otherwise have missed. Never be snobbish either. The best lessons come in unexpected packages. One of the hallmarks of the fool is that he or she thinks learning is restricted to the “right” situations and people. Like birds of a feather, fools flock together, reinforcing their foolishness by deciding they’ll only listen to one another. Wise people know they can’t predict who or what will provide the best lessons in life. Sometimes it will be the voices all the “right” people have rejected.
  5. Delight in metaphors and analogies. Every object or idea can stand for something else, or suggest an unexpected link. Dull people restrict their thinking and reading to what seems obviously relevant. Clever ones peer into what isn’t. You’ll maybe discover far more about working life from poetry, philosophy, or good novels that you ever will from business books and self-satisfied self-help writers.
  6. Run away from any kind of dogma. Dogma is the product of a closed mind. It’s an idea with a threat attached. If you suffer from dogma, get it out of your life. Let it go. Kick it out. Try thinking the opposite. Treat it like a crazy joke. Do anything you can to get rid of it. It’s the greatest source of barriers to breakthrough.
  7. Never aspire to be fashionable. Fashion is the foolish imitating the arrogant. Being cool is fear of change dressed in designer clothes. Following fashion is a sure way to prevent any kind of breakthrough in your life. Free yourself from barriers like this. Be who you are, not who everyone else is pretending to be.
  8. Stand on the shoulders of those who went before you. You’ll see so much better and farther. Never imitate the past. Use it to understand better and provoke questions in your mind. History is too often neglected as a source of breakthroughs. By learning from what has already been done, you can make faster steps towards what hasn’t. Innovation is mostly sticking things together in unexpected ways. To create unique ideas and stimulate breakthrough thinking, hybridize from what you have already. Fresh combinations of old ideas can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. It’s simply not true that creative people come up with ideas from nowhere. Even the most startlingly innovative people need material to work with.
  9. If it’s habitual, consider dumping it. Habits are the iron bands that hold you in your current ways of thinking and behaving. No one ever made a breakthrough without letting go of whatever has become habitual and automatic. Breaking those tough old habits won’t be easy. You may have to endure some “cold turkey.” It will be well worth it.
  10. Begin anywhere. There’s no right place, nor any better place to start from that where you are right now. Waiting to find the right time and place to begin on your quest for breakthrough is a sure way to induce paralysis. New ideas arrive unexpectedly. Whenever they do, allow them to be heard. Learn to be alert always for good ideas and opportunities for breakthrough. Be flexible. Grab opportunities when they come. Don’t sit back and expect another one to be along in a moment. The universe isn’t like that. The idea or opportunity you just chose to ignore may have been the best one you’ll ever have. Begin anywhere. Begin now. Just do it.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and working life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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