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Don’t Go Into The New Year If You Haven’t Done These Things

Don’t Go Into The New Year If You Haven’t Done These Things
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As we near the end of the year, we enter into the time where people take stock of the year that has passed and begin to plan ways they can improve in the year to come. Most people make New Year’s resolutions, but these aspirations fizzle and fade anywhere between three weeks and three months. Well now you can do something different! Through these 10 practical tips, you can develop positive habits that will enable you to stay focused and persevere, allowing you to accomplish any goal you set.

Create a daily ritual

Your ritual is the foundation of your quest to stay focused. There are no people with a high level of focus who do not purposefully follow a daily routine. It is in following the sleeping patterns you set, establishing when you eat, setting when you have personal time and when you take breaks that you maximize your effort in working towards your goals.

Set 1-2 BIG goals for the year

Setting BIG goals gives you a finish line to run towards, enabling you to ensure that all your daily actions ladder up to these goals in some way. It also allows you to track your progress throughout the year, and evaluate whether or not you have been able to stay focused. Checking on your big goals every 3-4 weeks allows you to effectively measure what you have done, evaluate what needs to be done, and adjust accordingly. This purposeful adjustment will help you stay focused from New Year’s through Christmas.

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Create a vision board

A vision board is a collage of pictures and images that represent your goals and dreams. Adding quotes, relevant articles, and souvenirs that relate to your BIG goals allows you to visualize the end clearly, and reinforces those goals as you see them every day. Having a bad or seemingly unproductive day? Look at your vision board to remind you of what you’re working for.

Set some daily “alone time”

It is extremely important that, in this journey to stay focused and accomplish more in the upcoming year, you allow yourself some time to relax and take a breath. While striving to accomplish everything as soon as possible is admirable, it inevitably results in burnout, which leaves the situation worse than when it began. Spend some time alone reading a book, in meditation, doing yoga, or any other hobby that allows your mind to take a small break and recharge before doing more work.

Complete everything you start

Although simple and straightforward, completing everything you start is still an essential key to help you stay focused.Giving up on a task or procrastinating and pushing back a deadline only serves to weaken your mental resolve, making it even easier to quit or push it off again in the future. Your focus depends as much on determination, perseverance, and resolve as it does on the specifics of the task at hand.

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Make a to-do list

Making a to-do list is a great way to stay focused! It is such a great feeling to cross completed tasks off of a list one by one. Organize your to-do list into categories: things to do today, things to do tomorrow, and things to do this week. You will be more organized knowing what you have to accomplish immediately, soon, and in the near future. This also helps prioritize the important tasks so that you can give your best effort to complete these tasks first.

Multitask less

You may feel that multitasking is a skill because you can accomplish more things at once, but the truth is that your brain is not fully engaged in either task. Instead, devote all of your brainpower to accomplishing one thing at a time, and you will find it much easier to stay focused.

Avoid distractions

Cut the long line of open tabs short. Don’t check Twitter, Facebook, or your email every five minutes. Making sure you take care of the tasks in front of you immediately allows you to finish faster and completely enjoy personal time without worrying. Find quiet environments to work in, and if that isn’t an option, stay focused by listening to calming music or investing in noise-canceling headphones.

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Have “accountabil-a-buddies”

Find people with similar goals, people who will hold you accountable to what you set out to accomplish. They will help to remind you about your goal, spur you to stay focused when you feel unmotivated, and even be sources of new ideas when your mind feels stagnant.

Stay focused on being focused

Don’t be misguided. Focus is inherently simple, but it is difficult too. It takes strategy, dedication, and a commitment to see things through to the end at the cost of all other possibilities. The more rigid you are with your rules of focusing and controlling your habits, the more skilled you will become at it.

As you strive to stay focused for the upcoming year, realize that there will be times when distraction looms and your progress towards your goals is not as rosy as it once seemed. But true focus is found when you can fall in love with the routine and seemingly boring daily practice and not be distracted by the final result or individual event. Let’s start now!

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Are there any other tips or strategies you use to stay focused? Share them below!

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CJ Goulding

CJ Goulding is the Lead Organizer at Natural Leaders Network, building leaders and connections in and between humans.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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