How many times have you made a commitment to do something for yourself – read a book, start exercising, investigate a new business idea etc. and then abandoned it because something “more critical” came up? We’ve all be there. Just as we open the laptop to start on our plan, we get a phone call from a friend who is in town and wants to meet up or a colleague suggests drinks after work. We put-off our plans and for the next few weeks (sometimes months), those plans take a back seat.
Many years ago, I learnt an important lesson – if you haven’t set your own priorities in life, others will make their priorities your priority. Suddenly a friend asks to help with a house move, in that same hour when you planned to invest time in yourself.
If you had an appointment with your bank manager, would you just cancel that appointment to help with your friend’s house move? I suspect the answer is NO. Then, why short-change yourself by giving up that valuable hour so easily?
The reason is that we are sometimes not as committed to ourselves and our own plans and goals. We don’t see them as important enough to make them top priority. Decisions may have been made on a whim, so we are unconvinced about the importance and it is easier to cancel on ourselves than to cancel on others.
We all need self-time, that time when we are 100% allowed to be self-ish. This is not the time to watch TV without the kids around, but time to invest in yourself. The world is moving on and if you don’t develop yourself, you will soon find that your skills are outdated and no longer relevant in today’s society. If you really want to lose weight, it’s time to hit the weights and the treadmill. No action, no results…. Half-hearted actions also yield sub-optimal results.
Here are 6 valuable steps to help us remain high achievers in our careers and personal lives.
Step 1 – Set Goals
It is important that at every time of our lives, we have goals. Goals help to set priorities and focus the mind. Be clear about what you aim to achieve and why. It is your priority, your life. This goal should therefore be set by you not for you by someone else. I remember someone telling me they read for an hour each evening. So, I decided to read for an hour every evening. Guess what, it did not last very long because it was someone else's goal. On the other hand, I decided to wake up early each morning to write something on my blog. This was MY goal – to write at least one blog each week. And so far, (of course with some off days), I am sticking to that goal.
If you are working with a mentor, they will help you set goals. A good mentor will ensure they are your goals. Similarly, if you have children, support them in setting goals. Make sure these are not your goals, but theirs.
Step 2 – Take a Reality check
Be realistic about what this requires and your ability to achieve it. I mentioned that I decided to read for an hour every evening following the revelation from a friend that they did the same. My reality check was that I have difficulty staying awake to read at night. I can work at night, but reading sends me to sleep whatever the content. If I wanted to set that goal, it would have been more realistic for me to do the reading first thing in the morning rather than at night.
We are different. Therefore, goals should be set by the goal owner and no-one but the goal owner should decide how to achieve it.
Step 3 – Make an appointment with Self
Having set our goals, it is now time to make it work. Many of us diaries. Some use old-fashioned paper diaries whilst others use digital diaries (e.g. on your phone); it doesn't matter as long as you have a form of diary. If you don’t have one, please get one! It will help you get organised.
Book an appointment in your diary with "SELF". Schedule time each day or each week (depending on your activity) that does not normally clash with anything else. For instance, if you are normally at work between 9am and 5pm, you should not choose 2pm since that time is already allocated to work.
Make sure everyone - your kids, husband, wife, friends, colleagues etc - know that this is NOT FREE TIME… it is "INVESTING IN SELF" time. Keep it short (maybe an hour), regular and recurring e.g. daily or weekly.
In the unlikely event when an emergency occurs and you really can’t make your appointment (e.g. an extended board meeting at work or a PTA meeting in your child’s school), make sure you re-schedule. Just imagine that this is an appointment with your bank manager. If the scheduled time does not work, you will reschedule it.
Similarly, don’t skip any of your personal appointments, but reschedule if required. Give up something else that is less important such as watching your favourite TV seriesor a phone call. Your “self-ish” time is 100 times more important. By the way, your friend moving house does not class as an emergency. It is their priority, but you have a different priority. Just let them know when you are free and they should arrange the move for a time when you are free, not when they are free.
Step 4 – Persevere
Stick to it - whether you like it or not, whether you feel like it or not. Waking up early to write my blogs was initially tough. Some days, I would simply shut off the alarm and go back to sleep. But each day, I set the alarm and over time, it is becoming easier.
I recommend that you find a quiet space and a quiet time, where you can have your self-meeting without distractions. Many years ago, whilst taking a course, I would seat in my car in the parking lot at lunchtime to study. It was “free” time that I chose to use to achieve my goals.
Remember to also turn off your phone so you don’t get distracted. Initially, this may feel odd and/or strenous. Many of us are not used to “me-time”. But persevere and it will soon become second nature and a good habit.
Step 5 – Assess and review
Take time to review your goals, maybe monthly or quarterly depending on the goal. Assess progress being made versus the set goal. Does anything need changing? Is progress being made and are the set goals being achieved? What is working and what isn’t? Is this goal still relevant?
Ask yourself questions, and be honest about your answers. Then make changes if you must, or if priorities have changed.
Step 6 – Set new goals
One of the most fulfilling things in life is achieving a set objective. Completing a course, writing and publishing that book, reaping the first harvest.
Achievement is often the fuel for further growth. The more you achieve, the more you are spurred on to do. This is the reason entrepreneurs never stop even when they are valued at millions of dollars. They are no longer driven by the financial benefit but by the achievement of new goals and the desire to scale new heights.
Today, is time to get selfish. Get your diary and schedule the most important appointment you’ve ever had.
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