I’ve always been pretty focused and determined – two qualities that have helped me accomplish some of my biggest goals in life. But lately I seem to have lost a bit of “oomph!” when it comes to staying focused and motivated. Perhaps it is not so much a lack of focus – because even when I was completely incapacitated this past winter with bronchitis, flu, and a sinus infection (and a kid with strep throat), I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things I wanted and needed to do, but simply did not have the physical energy to get anything done. I’ll tell you, THAT was really annoying! Some days I just wished I could shut down my brain and stop obsessing over all those things over which I had no control. I’m getting better (but not much!) about letting that stuff go and allowing myself to relax. I’m trying . . . but now that I’m healthy again, I’ve been working on getting myself refocused and striving to make progress on the goals that I believe God has given me for my life.
Here are a few ideas that have helped me, and they might be an encouragement to you, as well (none of this is new information, and I’m sure you have heard much of it before, but once I put it all together in one place, it has definitely helped me, so perhaps seeing it in a new way will be helpful).
1. PRAY ABOUT IT: It’s important to know that your goals are really right for you and your family. Otherwise it will be too easy to give up when the going gets tough. Take the time to ask God to give you guidance and direction, and to bless your work, so that you are confident that you are investing your time, talents, resources, and energy in goals that are honoring to Him and will be a blessing to your family. I’ve often gotten so focused on my work that I become exhausted and simply have no energy left over to do things like go for a bike ride with my girls. I’m getting better, but it is a constant balancing act. Then, when things aren’t going exactly the way you had hoped, when you are tempted to give up because the journey may be too difficult, you will have a resource to draw you back to your original motivation for pursuing your goals.
2. MAKE A PLAN: We all know that a dream is something we think about, but a goal actually turns into action. So, the first thing to do is make a plan of what you want to accomplish. The first step here is to make a BROAD vision to incorporate everything that you MIGHT want to do. Of course, you won’t be able to do it all right away, but I’ve found that by getting it all out of my head and on to a piece of paper, I can then have a clearer vision of what the priorities are. One of my friends encouraged me to take a great big piece of poster board and write down everything I was thinking of doing, now or at some time in the future, on sticky notes (Thanks, Christie Browning!) and then stick them to the poster board.
Once all of that is out of your head, you can organize the ideas into categories. So, if you have a blog and you want to plan your posts, all of those ideas can go under the heading “BLOG.” Or if you have an Etsy shop, all those ideas (for now, we’ll break down each category later) go under the heading “ETSY.” Or if you are writing a book (or books), make a category for “BOOKS,” or whatever your ideas are, just make a sticky note and sort them out by logical category.
3. WRITE IT DOWN: Once you have a bunch of sticky notes categorized, you can see everything at once, and NOW you can begin to create a TO DO list – but first I like to make an outline. that might be too much for most people, but for writers it is probably second-nature. If you want to skip that step, I understand, but I can promise you that an outline helps to prioritize things. Next week I will post an outline that I am working on so you can see how helpful it is.
At this point if you are starting to get bogged down, just make a list from 1 – 10, in the priority that you think is right (for now, it might change later), and put the other stuff aside. NOW you have a road map. It might look like this:
BLOG: write posts for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
ETSY SHOP: five new listings by the end of next week
BOOK: finish chapters 3 and 4 by next Tuesday
ART PROJECTS: work on new design and finish it by Friday
Keep it fairly simple and loose enough that if something comes up and you can’t get to a project TODAY, you still have tomorrow or the next day. Give yourself direction with breathing room!
4. TELL A FRIEND: Here’s where I am really a failure! Because I work from home, I don’t always have time to “connect” with other women in my community, BUT I do have lots of interaction with my online friends. I need to get better at this, so one of MY goals is to enlist the support of one or two of my friends who share the same vision and passion for the work that we do, and offer one another support, connection, and accountability.
5. RESEARCH and BRAINSTORM: This is similar to #2, but more in-depth – learn as much as you can about your particular focus field of accomplishments, but don’t stop there! Sometimes we can spend all of our time researching, making plans, crunching numbers, and calculating costs that we find ourselves spinning our wheels, never getting to the actual implementation of our plans. After you have researched and discovered helpful information for your tasks, brainstorm (with a friend or by yourself) by writing down more detailed information for each of the areas that you have determined to be your TOP TEN priorities (or top three, or top five, or whatever you want to tackle first).
6. MAKE A SCHEDULE: This is the secret, in my humble opinion! We can make all kinds of plans, write down all of the priorities, step-by-step, make lists, do the research . . . but eventually you actually have to DO SOMETHING to make your dreams come true. Here’s what has worked for me – every day I update my TO DO list and include a time framework for each task on that list. That way I can take into account things like my girls’ tennis practices, orthodontist and dentist appointments, church youth group activities, and piano lesson (just to name a few!).
Also, because I’m the kind of person who is usually working on multiple projects at a time, and have a hard time doing ONE thing for several hours at a time, I break things up into manageable time-slots. Especially the things that NEED to be done but I don’t really want to do them . . . . like scrub the bathroom (I know, I know that is not one of my “goals” in life for this purpose, but it still needs to be done once in a while).
So, I will schedule something like this:
Work on Etsy photos – 1 hour
Answer emails – 30 minutes
Work on writing tasks – 1 hour
Clean the kitchen – 15 minutes
Vacuum the living room – 15 minutes
Practice the piano – 30 minutes
Work in sewing studio – 1 hour
Exercise – 20 minutes
Check social media – 30 minutes
That way I know that I will be making progress on the things that are on my priority list, but I will also accomplish some of the other things in life that require my attention.
7. SHUT OFF THE SOCIAL MEDIA: This one is self-explanatory. Only check your social media accounts three times a day (and schedule it in!).
8. TURN OFF THE TV: Just do it!
9. SET THE TIMER: This goes back to #6, and IT WORKS! When I sit down to work on my writing projects, I have my phone right here on my desk. I will set the timer for 60 minutes and when the beeper goes off, I stop and take a break. If you are trying to get in your 8 glasses of water a day, go drink one glass of water on your break. Check it off your list if you are keeping track. Put the laundry in the dryer if needed, and move to the next task. SET THE TIMER again and GO!
10. REST: My biggest weakness in this whole process is that I have (for some weird reason) always believed that I somehow must be Wonder Woman, and do it ALL, yesterday, twice . . . so making myself rest, unless I am sick, is truly a challenge for me. But I’m trying to allow myself to stop working when I have accomplished ENOUGH for one day. Of course, we all know about deadlines and stuff like that, but whenever possible, STOP for a while and rest, or play, or go out for coffee with a friend, or go for a walk with the dog, or go for a bike ride with the kids. I must learn to take my own advice!
I hope that some of these ideas are helpful to you as you pursue your goals. Be sure to visit some of the other bloggers in this week linky party, I’m pretty sure they have lots of amazing, creative, and inspiring ideas to share with you, too!
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