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Make Significant Changes in 15 Easy Steps

Make Significant Changes in 15 Easy Steps

Whether or not humans can change is a question as old as time itself. While the innermost character can be hard to actively change, there are some things that can change easily such as your routine and habits. These tasks make up 40% of how you spend your time. Things that some people consider part of a person’s character, like “being lazy,” or unsociable, or awkward, are often caused by a tangible difference in behavior. However, changing these aspects of yourself requires considerable work. Here’s 15 ways to help you make the change easier:

Break Your Goals Down Into Small Actionable Steps

Get ultra specific. Down to the point where you have a set of repeatable actions that you can do every day/week. This way, you ensure that you are always making progress. Don’t set something vague, like eating less. Instead, decide what you should do. Pick a few healthy meals that you will eat and the forms of exercise you will do each week. Make it a plan, not simply a goal.

If your goal is unconventional, like becoming a sculptor, make it a point to reach out to successful sculptors every week so that you can get the guidance you need. Focus not only on steps that improve your skills, but also ones that increase your network and chances of success later on down the road.

Tap Into The Power Of Routine, Make It A Habit

Contrary to popular belief, creating a habit isn’t about repeating something for 21 days and then you’re all set. It is true that the longer you do something, the closer to second nature it becomes. However, understand that you will experience times when it is extremely hard to keep going. These are the times when it is essential that you do just that.

Write Checklists By Hand

Write checklists to keep yourself in check, no pun intended. When you’re working towards a long-term goal, it’s easy to get sidetracked and forget the daily actions that keep you moving forward. Plus, the added physical effort of writing them down by hand seems to make all the difference.

If your goal is to become a self sufficient artist, don’t forget to put time into making connections. Add anything to your list, such as practice daily, reach out to successful artists, or contact local galleries. Perhaps, include a mandatory daily relaxation time. The checklists will be a reminder, when you feel like making excuses, that the long road is the only way to true success.

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Track And Share Your Progress

Track your progress to motivate yourself and spot patterns. This allows you to find out what works best for you and your goals.

A study showed that people who wrote weekly progress reports and sent them to a supportive friend were more likely to successfully change than people who didn’t do this. Who is your most supportive friend? Tell them what you’re trying to achieve, and how it’s coming along.

Focus On The Most Effective

Sounds simple? To the contrary, figuring this out can be a job in and of itself. Have you ever heard of the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule? Basically, the idea is that we spend 80% of our time doing things that contribute only 20% towards our goals, and only 20% of the time doing the vital stuff that contributes 80%.

If you can isolate what helps you the most, you progress more in less time.

Further reading: How to apply the 80/20 rule to earn more, work less, and dominate

Don’t Try To Reinvent The Wheel

Sometimes it can be tempting to venture out into new area. Don’t go overboard. If you’re trying to lose weight or bulk up, don’t try to invent a new diet revolving around your favorite food, chocolate chip fried chicken. Stick to tried and tested principles.

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If you find yourself overwhelmed, pinpoint what may be causing it. Think about the simplest alternatives. What can you do easier? Be careful and thoughtful, sometimes shortcuts turn out to be counterproductive and inefficient.

Leverage Your Strengths

If you’re great at lifting weights, and you actually enjoy it, but you suck at cardio, and hate it, focus on where you excel. Instead of forcing your way through traditional cardio, adapt your weight-lifting routine and add medium full-body exercises that suit you better. This doesn’t only apply to weight loss.

A designer, who may not be talented in marketing, can create a uniquely compelling business card and hire someone else to do the marketing.

Take Steps To Make It An Enjoyable Process

If you like listening to music and you’re still able to concentrate, integrate it into the pieces of the process that you don’t like. If you enjoy a particular sport, start getting personally involved in an amateur league, or just arrange games with your friends. If your goal is to learn to play an instrument, don’t stick to the songs in the book if they bore you to death, choose some of your very favorite songs. These small steps will help you enjoy the process, not just look forward to the goal.

Make Use Of Past And/Or Preexisting Habits

This one is pretty straight forward, but it’s also easy to miss. If you have a habit that would be useful for working towards your current goal, revisit it, ramp it up, and reap the benefits.

If you want to learn a new language, and you spend a lot time watching TV, incorporate it into your goal, by watching foreign language TV shows. If you like mountain climbing and long walks in the park to relax, take it one step further and add it to your workout.

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Remember The Little Things

Don’t overlook the little things. According to the Pareto principle, the little things can be a huge part of your progress.

They may seem insignificant, but given enough time, the little things can mean the difference between not losing any weight one year to losing 10 pounds the next.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

One thing a lot of us have in common is that we don’t ask for help enough. Maybe it’s pride, or maybe it’s fear of rejection, or even a combination of several factors. Regardless, the solution is simple: ask for help more often. Seek out the people who are most qualified to help you with your current problem.

Accept And Move Past Your Failures

If you fail at something, don’t beat yourself up over it. Think about why you may have failed and what you could have done better. Accept that a speed-bump is part of the journey, and get back to work.

One thing that helps is to focus entirely on what went wrong and exactly how. When you move yourself out of the equation and look at the failure objectively, it’s easier to improve and move on.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Far Too Quickly

You may witness this at your local gym. Somebody that hasn’t worked out for months, or ever, comes in and tries to show off. Inevitably, they either embarrass themselves at the gym, or pay the price later in the form of aching muscles and decreased mobility.

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Instead, start off slow. Think about how much you can handle, and then lowball yourself. You can always gradually increase the amount of work you do, but keep in mind that it’s counterproductive to go too far.

Don’t Expect Things To Stay The Same

When you change, your habits and interests also change. Other changes will follow. You may have less in common with your very best friends, and even find yourself hanging out with a new crowd. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If your old friends are nurturing and worthwhile, don’t kill the friendships, but also don’t let them disrupt your improvement.

Prioritize Your Health And Happiness

There’s nothing productive about burning out after the first month of pursuing change. Instead, balance your rest, work, and play.

Be sure to sleep at least seven and a half hours every night. Leave yourself some “me time” to unwind and relax. Spend time with your friends and family. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Write these things in your daily checklists so you don’t forget. If you want to pull through, you will need to be healthy, happy, and energetic. Remember that change will not be instant, and in most cases it will not be quick, either.

So prepare yourself for the long haul.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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