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I'm a professional coach and former practicing lawyer, here to help you explore how to become more effective, intentional, and fulfilled in your personal and professional life. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me!
It’s the beginning of a new day. You’re hopeful you’ll be able to tackle a bunch of the things on your to-do list but before long, your focus is fading. You bounce from task to task, feeling overwhelmed. You try to force it but end the day frustrated. Sure, you may have started a few things but it feels like you didn’t complete much of ANYTHING!
Maybe you DID get some things done, but you had little or no time for your personal life. You know some of the most important people or areas in your life getting ignored (like that workout you had every intention of doing that just diiiiidn’t happen.) But now it’s late in the day, you plop on the couch with a bag of chips or a glass of wine and Netflix before you crash for the night, unsatisfied with what you accomplished and feeling a little defeated.
Those things you really want to get done? They’ll have to wait for another day… once again. Ugh, so frustrating!!
I know I can definitely relate!! Especially when you’re passionate and have a lot of different priorities and goals, it can feel impossible to complete everything and tend to all of your various priorities, not to mention getting AHEAD of things.
Before you go off in search of some productivity hack or short-cut to get more done…
So many passion-driven people I talk to say how they feel like they “accomplish nothing!” But is that really true?? Honestly, ask yourself. I would argue that for most of us, it’s not true at all.
I see many of the same people who say that, out there in world doing incredible things, showing up in the world, cultivating thriving communities, raising amazing children, and making an impact. Are they all really accomplishing NOTHING?! Heck no!
This is often just a perception or illusion. We FEEL like we’re accomplishing “nothing” because we don’t pause to acknowledge what we DO accomplish and may even diminish it. We have so many big dreams and ideas, no matter what we get done, there’s more to be created.
And we’re SO hard on ourselves any time we’re just not in the zone for whatever reason. Instead of letting up and coming back to it later, we try to push through, which just backfires and feels frustrating.
Take a period of time–maybe a week or a month–where you more closely track what you do each day, even things that seem little! As silly as it sounds, pretend you’re a journalist or private investigator looking from the outside collecting data. The point is… zero judgment!!
Don’t forget to include things you do to enhance your personal life and wellbeing. Those are significant too!
Once you have that information, take a look at it with an objective eye. What are you not giving yourself credit for that you are in fact accomplishing? How can you acknowledge yourself for those things more rather than focusing on what didn’t happen?
Remember, it’s often easy to gloss over the smaller tasks that may not yield instant return, but they are often still important. It’s also easy to not give ourselves for the “life” stuff beyond work. Reframe that to see it as essential to your overall wellbeing, satisfaction, fulfillment, and effectiveness in everything else that you do!
Most of us haven’t consciously established a standard to measure by, yet we’re very quick to judge ourselves for not meeting a subconscious standard we have established If you’ve ever had the feeling that you “didn’t get enough done,” then you DO have an underlying standard you’ve set up in your mind. You may just not be conscious of the rules you’ve created for yourself.
Instead of living by some arbitrary set of unconscious rules, intentionally establish standards that would be really nourishing and supportive for you and tailor them to your line of work and your priorities in life! This will be different for everyone.
To give you an example, let’s say you run a business that you market online. On Monday, you post a short video and a photo to 2 of your social media accounts and you brainstorm a bunch of new blog post topics that you’re going to write later. You also get in a great workout, eat 3 healthy meals, and re-connect with a friend over coffee who you haven’t seen in awhile. You check out a new book from the library related to your business and get started reading it. Maybe you also spend some quality time in the evening with your partner and kids if you have them.
If your standard for “success” is to complete and publish 2 new blog posts, post different content to all 7 of your social media platforms, enroll at least 1 new client that day, create 2 new PDF guides for your clients, spend time on a new offering you’re developing, finish another project, workout, eat healthy meals, see your friends and family…. yeah, you can quickly see how the reality of your Monday would feel a lot less accomplished than the standard I just described.
Of course you’d feel frustrated and unsatisfied with what you accomplished! This expectation is so high and honestly not realistic for anyone, especially not a solopreneur. By that standard, what is otherwise quite a productive and well-rounded day looks like you accomplished very little.
Do you see how it’s just an illusion based on your expectation?!
You can still challenge and call yourself forward to take bold action, but make sure that when your standards are actually do-able so you set yourself up for success, not frustration. I don’t know about you, but I’m not for unnecessary suffering!
This is something I’ve had to practice and revisit time and time again. Honestly, it’s something I still check myself on in the moment often. I’m so tempted to write everything I want to accomplish in a month on my daily to-do list and get frustrated if I don’t get all the things done, but that’s just self-defeating. Resist that temptation and be more realistic.
For example, say you want to enroll 1 new client into your service-based business, what steps can help you get there? Focus your standard around your effort to take those steps (e.g., writing 5 personal messages to potential clients this week or going live on Facebook to talk about your service 3 times this week).
Don’t make it tied to the outcome of getting that client. You can’t control when/how/where that client comes in. But you CAN control the action steps you take to create the opportunity for a new client to enroll and the energy and feeling you bring to it.
Then, CELEBRATE taking those steps regardless of whether you actually enroll a new client that week! Know the outcome you desire, but focus your standard on the actions you can control so you always set yourself up for success by your own standards.
And hey… you may decided your standard is really just a feeling you want to have regardless of what tasks you complete. It’s up to you to choose what’s more supportive for you to thrive!
Our lives are not linear, they are cyclical and evolving. Even within a single year, month (or even week!!) there are seasons where more outward action is aligned and seasons that invite us to slow down and go inward or slow down.
If you’re raising little ones right now, for example, or you’re going through something challenging that requires you to up your self-care, or simply any season of growth and change, you may not be outwardly ticking off as many to-do’s. And that could be just right for you in this season!! Trust yourself to know what you need and adjust accordingly.
We’re living, breathing human beings after all. Allow your standard to shift and change with you. Just be intentional about it!
Create space in your life and take better care of yourself.
When our days are packed too full and we’re not tending to our wellbeing, our focus and follow-through suffer. That feeling of flow and being “in the zone” is stifled and nearly impossible to achieve when we’re depleted and don’t have enough space and nourishment in our lives.
But what do we usually do when we’re not getting enough done? PUSH OURSELVES HARDER TO “GET MORE DONE!”
Ugh, let’s ditch that way of thinking, yes?
Busy is not the same as productive, my friend. And yeah, sometimes you’re going to do things that don’t FEEL as productive but are actually getting you closer to your goals if you’re honest with yourself.
Create more space in your life and focus on less things so you can actually follow-through and complete the few things that matter most!! Yep… that means prioritizing and letting some things go. So be it.
Be conscientious about what you allow into your life and make time for. Stop saying “yes” to everything and everyone–that includes with yourself. Stop saying yes to every project and idea. I know, crazy right?? You can still write them all down for later, but at least stop saying “yes, right now” to all of them and diverting your energy and attention to a new shiny idea every 5 minutes.
Sure, sometimes an inspired idea comes along and it’s actually a great thing to shift your focus to that. But some things will have to wait so you can get focused on your priorities for right now. It’s your responsibility to determine what’s for now and what’s for later. (Thought you don’t have to figure it out. As a coach, I help my clients sort through these things!)
Taking on less also allows you more time to take better care of yourself. To nourish your mind, body, and spirit in a way that allows you to show up more vibrant and high-energy. It’s better to be focused and in the zone on a few things than showing up with a fraction of the energy and focus you could have because you’re trying to do it all RIGHT NOW, bouncing from project to project, and spinning your wheels.
At the end of the day, we’re NOT going to be focused and productive all the time. And I think it’s time we acknowledge that. Believing otherwise is a recipe for disappointment and frustration with ourselves.
Again, it’s an illusion. If we think that this perfect productivity exists, it’s easy to believe we’re always falling short, we’re failures, we’re lazy, etc. when in truth, we’re just being HUMAN.
Yet, so often productivity is talk about like there’s a perfect productivity solution out there. Like we are machines. Maybe you’re out there right now in search of that magical cure-all that’ll make you totally focused and productive every day and you won’t be satisfied till you get there.
To put it bluntly… that’s fantasy.
We’re not designed to focus all the time! It’s totally natural to have off days or time. We NEED down time and quiet and well-rounded lives to be more focused, creative, and productive in the select times that we are working. To notice the times of flow and inspiration and capitalize on them.
True focused work comes more easily when you have time in your day and life to rest, relax and NOT be in the zone. We also aren’t always going to feel like ever single thing we do is super productive or what we had planned, but sometimes the things we feel called to do or inspired to do are actually moving the needle on our goals more than we acknowledge.
The sooner we ditch the fantasy, the sooner we can acknowledge ourself and give ourselves more credit for all we’re already doing. It’s from THAT place–one of acknowledgement, understanding, and self-compassion–that you can start to look at the small tweaks you can make to capitalize on your more focused and productive energy. And feel more satisfied in the process!