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Forget Resolutions: If You Only Do One Thing to Get Ready for 2014, Do This!

Forget Resolutions: If You Only Do One Thing to Get Ready for 2014, Do This!
Many people, stuffed full of Christmas goose, spend the last week of the year mulling and ruminating over what worked and what didn’t and how they hope the next year will be better.

The problem is, without the right structure, there will be too many loose-ends, and too much unfinished business. Without new goals, and new ways of tackling them, 2014 will almost certainly be a Groundhog Day version of 2013.

Making resolutions without a good structure for reflecting on the previous year is like putting icing on a mud pie.  Sure, the resolutions look good, but the foundation is still muddy.

I’ve been using 12-day process with CEOs, celebs, and entrepreneurs for two decades called ‘Reboot Your Life.’  It takes just a 20-30 minutes each day and structures your reflections, ruminations and goal setting so that the past is in the past, and the goals, dreams, and vision for the coming year are do-able.   

“Reboot” is just twelve 30-minute sessions and adds up to less than a day.  Investing a day to make the next 364 outstanding seems to me a no-brainer.

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Nevertheless, people are people, holidays are holidays, and people want to chill.  I’m often asked if there’s a “light’ version?” (Why would you want a “light version” of something as important as this? Go figure.)

But here it is.  If you do no other “work” on 2014 this holiday period, do this:

Step 1: Create a list of areas of your life that you care about.

In one sense, you are “just” going to make a list, but there is a huge trap here: making this list is not a descriptive process, but rather a creative one. What do I mean?

You already have five or six things you care about: a job, friends, and maybe children, hobbies, and school. There is some value in listing those and setting goals, but the gold is to be found by looking more deeply. By creating a new category, you declare that you are going to pay attention to that category in a new way.

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Some examples are:

1)      You may not have a category called health or finance, but there are minimum levels of attention needed to live well (and long), and very high levels of excellence are possible in such categories.

2)      You may have other neglected areas. I sometimes find very successful people who neglect (not willfully) friendships or extended family due to their high-demand schedule.

3)      Adding an area can enrich your life. Perhaps ‘culture’ (maybe Bieber, maybe WWF, maybe Wagner,  or crafts fairs/ museums). Perhaps ‘being of service,’ or ‘learning something just for the sake of learning it’, or picking up a new hobby (or reconnecting with an old one).

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4)      There might be “stuff you just do” where you would be inspired by a new level of achievement or focus. Play golf? Take five shots off your game. Kids like sports or music? Find them the best instruction you can. Married? Make “Spouse” a category and make that category inspirational (to them). Enriching an area might be adding an absurdly distant goal (like me doing a 10k when my previous best distance was a 100m.)

5)      You should have at least two work categories: “Career” and “Job.” Career is the management of your long-term productive activities, which will include (at least) skills building, brand building, networking, and having a plan for either your next promotion or retirement. “Job,” meanwhile, is an uninspiring description, so choose another one that is more descriptive. If you are a “portfolio person” (as I am), you may have several. I have “Writer” and “Consultant” categories now.  When I ran a company, I had “Chairman” and “Rainmaker” categories, with different goals in each.

Some areas pretty much everybody has, some are areas people sometimes miss and are deeply enriching, and some can be quite specific to your life.  Here is a table of things to choose from, but make this specific to you!  You should come up with 8-12, some of which you already have.

‘Standard areas’ ‘Enriching areas’ ‘Specific areas’
Well-being, health Giving back Dream vacation
Finances Cultural enrichment (could be fine art, could be WWF) Habitat for Humanity service
Family Community service Second home
Education Politics International travel
Primary relationship Church Soccer coach
Friends Spirituality Golf league
Home (the house or apartment) Travel PTA role
Career Sports
Job Hobbies

Step 2: Rate 2013 in each area on a scale of 1 to 10 in the next column of your page

If “10” is deliriously happy and grateful for every second, and “1” is “I would not wish this on my worst enemy” where are you?   Go with your gut, but take off the rose-colored glasses if you wear those, and take of the mud-stained glasses if you wear those. (There are people for whom “okay” actually means “horrible,” and people for whom “horrible” actually means “okay.”)  Get honest with yourself.

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Step 3: In each area, jot down a few words or a sentence that answers the question, “What does a ‘10’ look like?” (This should also take about 15 minutes.)

By doing this, you create a vision for excellence in each area.  This creates a clarity of purpose and a new level of ambition that can make every area of your life extraordinary.

There is more to do.  The “whole enchilada” is eleven more days like this, but this gets you in touch with reality, and gives you a general sense of where you need to go.  Most people who do just this feel a renewed sense of aliveness and passion.

.Productivity tip:  Don’t let this be something you will ‘get to’.  Just reading this will do you no good.  Block off 30 minutes in your calendar to do it this week.

And have a great 2014!!!

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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