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Ask for Advice to Help Achieve Your Goals

Ask for Advice to Help Achieve Your Goals

    It’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about what we’d like to achieve in the New Year.

    Whether it’s improving an area of our lives (health or finance for example), taking a life-changing trip or embarking on a new career, chances are we have an idea of what we want to achieve, but not exactly how to achieve it.

    Even if we do have a rough plan of sorts, seeking advice from others who’ve been there before you can only help, and saves from trying to figure everything out on our own.

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    During my tenure as a journalist, I interviewed a number of high profile names who had achieved great success in their chosen field.

    Whenever I did so, my final question, though worded differently, was always pretty much the same:

    “What advice would you give to those looking to follow in your footsteps?”

    Though I asked partly to get a good quote for an article, my motives were mostly selfish; I really respected what my interviewees had achieved, longed to reach the same level of success and desperately wanted to know how they did it. Though I couldn’t always find away to apply everything I was told directly to my life, wherever I could, I did.

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    On standing out from the crowd when approaching editors in my writing career for example, a former editor of Marvel Comics once told me:

    “Don’t be an envelope, be a face, be a name.”

    I employed that line as my own personal mantra when seeking out bigger and better opportunities and certainly found that I’ve achieved more success ever since.

    Who to ask

    In his best-selling book, The 4-Hour Work Week, author Tim Ferriss discusses setting university students the challenge of seeking out high-profile successful people (the guys who created Google, for example) and asking for advice.

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    There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and if you feel confident enough to call up Bill Gates and ask how to run a multi-billion dollar empire (or if you’re a journalist with access to the rich and famous!), then by all means go right ahead, though you’ll usually find plenty of people right on your doorstep who are happy to help.

    Look around you

    Whatever your goals are for the New Year, achieving them on your own is going to be hard work, and there’s likely to be somebody in your network who’ll be able to help.

    If your goal is to run a marathon in 2012, tracking down Paula Radcliffe for training tips might not be necessary if you, or someone in your network, is already a seasoned athlete.

    If you plan to get on top of your finances, who do you know who’s already good with money? What can you learn from them?

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    What to ask

    If there’s one thing my time in journalism taught me, it’s that, when it comes to advice, if you simply ask ‘What do I need to do to follow in your footsteps?” you’re likely to be met with little more than an enthusiastic “Go for it!” Whilst this can do wonders for your motivation, it’s hardly practical and still leaves you scratching your head thinking “Yeah, but how?”

    Instead, think about exactly what it is you want to know, and ask specific questions. To go back to our marathon example, think about specific areas you’re struggling with; how to maintain stamina, what to eat, or even which running shoes to buy. The more specific you can be with your questions, the more useful the advice will be.

    To surmise then, think about your goals for the coming year, think about not only those who could advise you, but also what you need advice on, and make contact. Then, when you find yourself being approached for advice by others, be sure to remember all the times you were in their shoes, and help them out.

    (Photo credit: Hot Keys for Advice and Support via Shutterstock)

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    Chris Skoyles

    Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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