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Why Failure Can Take You One Step Closer to Success

Why Failure Can Take You One Step Closer to Success

Are you one of those people who has never failed? I hope not, because failing in my opinion is a stepping stone on the road to success.

In my world of work I am seen as a “productivity expert”. I use GTD, I try and test productivity apps and I teach people how to organize both their physical and electronic world. But I’m going to let you into a little secret:

I’m not naturally inclined that way.

Chaos

I am chaos — or maybe I’ll qualify that — I was chaos.

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My life was disorder, disorganization, stress, frustration and many more negative things. When I was young my father used to offer me a shovel on my way to bed. The joke was that I would need a shovel in order to clear a path to my bed. Yes I was that bad.

Control

The fairytale goes like this; I was chaos, I found the world of productivity and now my life is order, control and success.

I don’t think so.

There have been many bumps on the road and I still battle at times to keep my physical and mental world in check. I didn’t like the rigidity of systems, the discipline of routines. It wasn’t going to work for me. I got started and I failed.

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Failure

What is failure? A student once asked me:

“Is failure a necessary component in success?”

We debated the subject in class and came to the conclusion that failure doesn’t have to failure 100% of the time in order for someone to be successful but more often than not it will be a component. Especially when the success comes from hard work and personal achievement, as opposed to getting lucky or having a successful family.

Most business people fail the first time they start a business. In fact, statistics say that on average most people finally succeed at their third business.

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(Corollary: Don’t panic if you are starting your first business; some of these succeed too.)

What entrepreneurs will tell you is that the important thing is to learn from failures, understand what happened, pick yourself up and start again.

So if failure is a stepping stone to success then why does this word have such a negative connotation? I think we need to change the way we think and speak about failure. The following words I heard at a weight watchers meeting and I think these words can become a philosophy for life

“You are going to fall, but that doesn’t matter, what matters is how long you stay lying down.”

So, that’s it.  We all fail. We all fall down. It’s how quickly you pick yourself and dust yourself off that is a strong determinant of success.

Failing at being productive

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not naturally an organized person (to put it mildly). I also said that I did fail, but I picked myself up, I persisted and today I can now honestly call myself organized and productive. Sure, I’m not productive 100% of the time — Twitter and Facebook have a lot to answer for — but my stats are getting better. Through persistence and determination, I’ve learned all the tricks of the trade. I’ve tweaked them and now I have a lifestyle that works for me.

I have failed many times on my journey and at times I have been demotivated and disorganized, but because I know the beauty of productivity, the benefits and the possibilities, I know it’s worth that little extra effort to stay organized.

My Top 5 Tips

If you are just thinking about becoming more productive, or if you have tried and failed, here are my top tips to help you get going — or get back on board.

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  1. Have clear goals. This helps with motivation and purpose.
  2. Get a system. You need a way to organize and process your work, it also helps when you go off track by giving you a road-map to get back on track.
  3. Get up early. You can achieve so much more in the early hours when no one is awake. (This may not work for night owls. Instead, they need to get a head start on the early risers the night before.)
  4. Exercise. It reduces stress and creates energy to up your game.
  5. Meditate. This also helps with stress relief, focus and concentration.

And remember: If or when you do fail in life, it’s not an occasion to cry, it’s an opportunity to learn, grow and improve. A time get excited about the possibilities of what comes next and stand up to the challenge.

Featured photo credit: William Krause via unsplash.com

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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