By Lucy Bramley, #RideTheWave Alum
Do you have a robust plan for work and life? Have the next 5 years all mapped out? Look back on your life’s achievements with pride at a job well done?
No, me neither!!!
I bimble through life on a rollercoaster of trepidation, joy and guilt. I regularly feel that life is something that happens to me. I’m usually surprised by deadlines and tend to look back on each day feeling that, although I’ve been busy, I’ve just not achieved much.
Let’s talk about techniques that you and I can utilise to make us feel more in control, and some simple tools to recognise our efforts and achievements.
“I love it when a plan comes together” (Hannibal Smith, 1980s)
A plan’s only going to come together if we make one, so come on let’s grasp that nettle right now! Use whatever format you feel most comfortable with to get your plan documented. Even after 22 years working in the tech sector I’m still a pen and paper gal, so I have a lovely A3 weekly planner pad. To date this has been misused for doodles, pipe dreams and shopping lists. However last Monday I committed the 6 Big Ticket Items that I wanted to get done last week to paper in the To Do section of this fine document. Is 6 things too many? Only you can decide that. Look at what’s urgent and what you really need to get done. What do you really want to get done? Do you have the time to do things justice? If not, how might you create space to do that? Do you have some fun stuff in there too? (All work and no play makes for a pretty miserable week in my view!)
So we’ve crafted our goals for the week. Well done! Now let’s look at how to ensure that these things get the focus they need over the next 5 days (or however many days you work each week). What does your calendar look like? Is it lovely, empty, and just waiting for you to block out chunks of time for the tasks you need to do? Or does it look like it has been invaded by hordes of time thieves, none of whom are interested or involved in your goals for this week. Mine’s the latter! So first up is a bit of realistic pruning. When you’ve determined what needs to be there do another check on whether that gives you the time and space to get your goals met. Is what is in your diary going to help you meet those goals? Might it introduce more work for you to do? Will you be able to schedule that extra work in? Do you need to?
Top tip – be really firm about what’s in your diary. If it’s not going to help you to execute on your plans does it need to be there?
“But don’t look back in anger, I heard you say” (Noel Gallagher, 1996)
So how was it for you? My plan worked perfectly until about 09.15am last Monday morning when Other Urgent Stuff Came In. But I greeted the new tasks with grace (and breathing exercises). I had also built a bit of contingency in my week by blocking out chunks of focus time for the unexpected. Did you find that you had bitten off more than you could chew? How will you handle that next week? I noticed that goals which I left a bit loose, and not tied to tasks on specific days did tend to slip. So I have started pegging some of my chunks of focus time to defined work.
“If we took a holiday, took some time to celebrate, just one day out of life, it would be, it would be so nice!” (Madonna, 1983)
Listen, celebrations shouldn’t just be about holidays. You should be celebrating every little achievement you make every day. When did you last pat yourself on the back for all the good things you did during your busy day? One of the great things about maintaining a plan is that you get to see your successes as you gleefully strike through them in fluorescent yellow highlighter. I take some time each week to reflect and to recognise myself and those around me for a job well done. That gives you and those you thank a little hit of dopamine. Great to set you up for more success next week.
Let me know if you found these tips helpful, and please share your productivity and motivation hints in the comments. Have a great week!