Vision boards have become more popular since Pinterest joined the cyberworld. One of the most popular “boards” on there is for future brides to gather together everything they come across they might decide to use in their own weddings. Writers are using them to find pictures of what they envision their characters to look like. People plan their vacations.
Imagine doing this for your whole life! What aspects of your life haven’t you obtained yet would give you the most joy? Find a picture to represent it, pin it up near your desk on a corkboard, and you will be inspired to work toward that vision.
Want to vacation in Hawaii? Put up some pictures of where you want to go while visiting. Planning a party? Dreaming of a beach house? Or just an uncluttered living room? Your novel a bestseller?* With photoshopping programs, the internet and your printer, what you can see in your mind can become a concrete picture to put up where you will see it often. You can use glossy brochure paper to print your dreamscapes. And of course, you can use Pinterest for this idea, as well. But you won’t see the images as often, probably, as when you pin them where you come across them whenever you’re in the area where you’ve put them in your home or office.
You need a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. What better way to see your vision that to put it right in front of you to look at every day?
*Find a list of NY Times bestsellers on-line, delete the first one, insert your title and name. Or, if you have an image of your cover, take a picture of the rack at the grocery checkout counter where they place the current paperback bestseller, delete one of the covers, and paste yours into the space.
Who knew? Who knew there was a month dedicated to time management? It makes sense to have it in the second month of the year because this is the time those wonderful resolutions begin to weaken.
How was your January? Did you make some plans on how to spend your time to reach your goals for the year?
Here’s a quick recap on how best to manage your time.
- List your goals.
- Order the goals in importance, giving them A, B, C, and D ratings.
- Plan to do your most important goals early is the day unless you’re a night person. Otherwise, plan your evening hours.
- If you complete your A goals, move to B, then C. Decide if you really, really need to do most of the C and D ones.
- If you have a sit-down job, resolve to get out of the chair at least every hour and move around for about ten minutes. If you stand a lot, take some sitting breaks regularly during the day.
- Keep track of your time. You need to know how long things take in order to do a good job of planning in the future.
- At the end of the day, pat yourself on the back when you accomplish all your A goals, put your feet up and read a good book. Or watch TV if you absolutely have to. <grin>
And basically, that’s it. My job is now done. But most likely I’ll be back with more tips as the year goes by. You are warned.
Why is it so hard to change our behavior when we want desperately to do so? Most people will say it’s a lack of willpower.
But new studies show that’s not it. Rather it’s not having habits and routines in place to keep you on track. This is probably why programs such as Weight Watchers™ work well for so many people. You start a new habit—calculating what you eat every day and how many points. You’re paying attention. You probably now eat only at certain times, including snacks. You’re not buying the food that tempts you—no ice cream in the freezer to call to you at 2 a.m. Plus you’ve joined a group of others who have the same goal—studies have shown this is very helpful. Hang out with the people who are achieving what you want to achieve, or have already achieved it. Peer pressure does work.
But there’s more. Advance planning for everything on your goals list will help your chances of success. Don’t just plan to exercise more. Pick a certain time every day to do it. You want to de-clutter? Again, pick a time of day (a mere 15 minutes a day will accomplish a lot in one month) and do it then. In three weeks, if you do it every day, the new habit is ingrained and you will no longer have to think about it (how often do you think about brushing your teeth or drinking your morning cuppa?).
Put your day on autopilot, and all the things you want to accomplish, unless catastrophe strikes, should get done. This planning in advance has to be realistic. You cannot plan to finish something that usually takes an hour in half an hour. This is where prioritizing comes in, too. It’s always best to do the most important things first and leave the less important things for later. If the important things take more time than planned or you are interrupted, at least you got those done. Remember to throw in some stuff you love to do throughout the day. Put them on your schedule along with everything else.
Make it a habit to start your day with something you really enjoy, and end your day the same way. You will hear people say it’s best to exercise first thing (and for some people, it might be true). But if you hate exercising, you will soon not look forward to getting up in the morning. Instead, start with something you like—have breakfast with your spouse, read the paper or a book, watch the morning news on TV, read some email, whatever. Then do your exercises. Try alternating the hard stuff with things you love.
Also try this: Count up all the things you do every day that are already habits. You probably get up at the same time every day. What actions do you take after that? Could be you brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, drink coffee or tea, take some vitamins, grab whatever you need to take to work, get in the car, drive to work or drop off the kids then drive to work, and then list what you do when you get there. Do you greet the same person by the front door every day? Do you put away your purse and/or briefcase in the same spot? Do you hang up your coat, roll up your sleeves, sit down, turn on your computer? You see how many things you do just in the first hour or so of rising? This goes on all day long, and the things go in reverse when you head home.
Imagine if you scheduled the rest of your day in a similar manner. Put yourself on autopilot. Then, if you usually avoid something that needs to be done, do it right away, with as little thought as possible. But on the other hand, if there’s something you would like to do but don’t want to do (eat another cookie, or smoke a cigarette are two good examples), put it off for a minute or so. You might get distracted and forget about it, at least for a while. Then try that again—keep putting it off.
To recap: Decide in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goals. This removes the mental effort of making decisions. Your intentions have to be very clear, and you need to be sure you can accomplish your goal. It’s all in the details. And if there’s a habit you want to break, put off doing it as long as you can. Distract yourself. This would be a good time to do something else pleasurable. So, allow some time for spontaneity in your schedule. Because when you fine-tune these habits, it will be very easy to get back on track after a short break.
Try it and see!
Think hard about these questions to make your life better.
What are your top priorities in life? I imagine they include self-care (meaning everything from grooming to spiritual matters),
family and friends, work, your personal environment (home and office, if working outside the home, even car), and leisure time (which may include volunteer work). Anything else?
How would you list them in order of importance?
How much time would you say you need every day to tend to each one?
Have you ever sat down and made a chart or a list of everything you want to do every day to meet your goals?
Are there enough hours in the day to meet them?
What can you cut back on to improve what needs improvement?
How can you get the most important items done every day? Do you need help? Are you asking too much of yourself? Have you shared you goals with your family and friends so they understand when you can’t help them with their own needs and wants all the time?
When you look back on your life, what will give you the most pleasure to remember? Don’t forget your future self when setting up your goals!
When something comes up during your day that is not part of your goals, how do you handle it? Do you toss away your goals because someone asks you to do something else? Do you get wrapped up in someone else’s drama? Do you become distracted by phone calls, emails, other social media?
Do you allow for interruptions? And do you schedule time to do the things you love to do?
Once you have answered all these questions and written down your major goals in life, you will be on your way to a better life for yourself and those around you. When you consciously set out to do things, they are more apt to get done.
And the satisfaction from that is worth all the planning. Your future self will thank you.
You probably already have weekly goals, whether you know it or not. If you have a job outside the home, one of your goals is to go to work every day. Another goal will be to groom yourself every day, eat several meals, maybe do some exercising, sleep a certain number of hours, clean the house, work on the yard, take care of kids and pets and so on. These are so routine, you hardly ever have to think about most of them anymore.
But if you had to pick one goal you’ve been putting off to work on for this next week, what would it be? What would happen if you picked one every Monday and tried to accomplish it by Friday or Saturday bedtime?
I would bet that in a month or two, your overall to-do list would have shrunk to a more manageable size (it never, or rarely, gets to zero if you keep it updated, unfortunately).
Remember the process for accomplishing a goal. Write it down. Write down the steps you need to take to accomplish it. Move those steps around in the order you need to do them in. Go!
For example, you want to paint a room. First you have to pick which room. Then write it down. Next, you have to figure out what you need in order to paint it. You may already have some supplies on hand, but need to buy others. You have to pick a color and get the paint. Maybe you want to check out paint chips first. Put all these things in order on Monday and see how far you get by end of the week. Even if you don’t get the painting done, you’re that much closer to end of goal. The next week, you can have the same goal, and probably finish the job.
This works for just about everything. Need to see the dentist?
You have to make an appointment. If you don’t have a dentist, you have to decide whom to see. You need to gather information, find out locations and telephone numbers. (See where the steps aren’t in the right order as I quickly wrote them down? Remember to re-order your steps.) Then you have to call for the appointment. The dentist may not be able to see you the same week, so again, you have to put that goal off to the week you can go.
If you concentrate on only one rather large goal each week, you will be a lot further ahead than if you take a scattershot approach and work on two or three or more each week. You also lose momentum if you don’t narrow it down to one. You may go get the paint chips, gather the information about dentists, then decide to work on something else because you’ve lost interest and focus.
What one major goal will you pick for this week? Write it down. And check in with yourself on Friday or Saturday to see how far along you got.
How do you see your life? As a journey? A story. A dream?
If you could write the story of your life, how would you like it to be? Imagine your perfect day. What happens when you get up in the morning? Are you happy to be alive? I hope so! Do you have something fabulous to look forward to? A great breakfast, or a brisk walk in the sunshine, talking to your loved ones, or even—work!? Again, I hope so.
Maybe your life isn’t as pleasant as you’d like because you haven’t really thought about how you want it to be. If that’s true, here are some ideas to make it better.
- First, write down a few things on separate pieces of paper (that handy small legal pad is ideal for this) you’d like to do in the near future. Maybe there’s a hobby you’d like to pursue. Or you want to lose a few pounds. Or you want a new job. Maybe you’d like to adopt a pet.
- Under each desire, list the steps you’d have to take to get what you want and the cost in time and money.
- Next order the steps they need to be taken in.
Then GO! Start with Step 1 as soon as you can. Today, hopefully.And when you get ready for bed each night, are you happy with how your day went? What could you do to make it better tomorrow? This is called an examined life. A lot better than an unexamined life!
You may have guessed that I do a lot of reading about subjects such as personal organization, time management, procrastination, self-development, and self-help in general. Of course, most of this reading over the years has been done to help me get better at organizing my stuff, managing my time, stop procrastinating, and self-development. I’ve done so much of it, I even wrote a column for Mysterical-e about taking notes about what you’ve read and marginalia.
With all this reading, there are a few ideas that stand out over the rest. One of those for me was happenedI was reading up on procrastination. I don’t procrastinate about a lot of things, but I have trouble with a couple—exercising and keeping up with email are the two biggest. I shared this simple idea on a goals list I was on for a while. It struck a spark in other people too, so I’m sharing it here.
When you’re about to put something off, think of your future self. Say to yourself, <your name> will thank you later for doing <such and so>. In other words, take a moment to think about how happy you’ll be later if you do what you need to do to accomplish your goal. Then, after you’ve done it and are thankful later, thank yourself. Say to yourself, Thank you <your name.>
Simple? Yes. Effective? Try it and see.
Every day there are so many things we do without thinking. Yes, every day. Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop and contemplate exactly what we’re doing with our time. How could we improve our environment and way of doing things to maximize the time we have to work on things that are really important to us? You are more likely to do this if you have a clear set of goals for your life, written down, in the forefront of your mind. Otherwise, you’ll tend to drift and to put things off.
Your mantra should be, “What’s the best use of my time NOW?” Ask yourself if whatever you plan to do next will move your life forward in the direction you want it to go or will just be wasting time, standing still.
Your goals don’t have to be lofty or pie in the sky. They can simply be to enjoy some time with your loved ones, or to watch the sunset every evening, or read a good book (I like this one—please do!).
But if some of your goals include long-term ones, such as traveling to exotic places, or writing a novel, or painting the whole inside of your house, it might help you to pause every so often and ask yourself, “Will this action help with my long-term goals, or is it just a time waster?”