When you want to do those things you never do: 12 tips to action: Part One

Many of us are rolling into a longer vacation stint because, let’s face it, we kept thinking the pandemic would break and we could actually go somewhere and wanted time to do it. Unfortunately, we find ourselves where we started in March….on our family room couch figuring out what to do with ourselves away from work.

If we are fortunate to live with our families, we can celebrate the holiday season together, which will bring some relief and joy. Some of us cannot see our family because that would involve travel and/or mixing households.

Aside from enjoying time off and the holiday season the best we can, one, two or more weeks off in December can allow us to focus on other facets of our life that we have been wanting to. I, like a lot of us, have taken up new projects and hobbies this year, which has been a very positive experience for me. Writing this weekly blog, working on a personal book about managing anxiety, working with my partner on a side hustle, letting my new Apple Watch tell me to breathe, stand and exercise. All of this has been a productive use of my time.

For years, I have wanted to do these things but never made time to do them. I made excuses for not having the time or energy to do things outside of my job. Granted, my job needs me to put in time and brain power on a daily basis but I never felt I could handle more. I thought that I needed any time outside of work to relax, read, watch TV and settle.

I still do those things but I also do a lot more with my time too. When I really stopped to think about it, I had more time than I knew. I don’t mean staying up until midnight or getting up a 4 am either. I mean I have time outside of work hours every day to work on what matters if I just found a bit more discipline.

So, I have been thinking about what finally broke my streak of inaction. I journaled for years and made lists of what I could and should do but I finally turned my wish list into an action list. I have been reflecting on what I did to make that happen.

Here are a few of my tips for shrugging off the “I don’t have the time, energy, or focus to do more” attitude.

  1. Create a vision board.
    Many of you may have heard of a vision board. I firmly believe in these. I tend to be in my head a bit and think that if I can imagine something, I can achieve it. While this is sometimes true, for the efforts that matter, I have created a vision board. I have done this two times in my life: 1) When I wanted to meet the right man. I captured images of what life would look like, feel like. I grabbed images of what we would be doing and put them in a single PowerPoint slide. 2) When I wanted to start writing more. Again, I found images online and compiled them into a PowerPoint slide. You can also print or cut out images and paste them on a board. Trust me. Having a visual of what you will look like, feel like, actions you will take, what success looks like is a huge motivator. This has worked in both instances for me. Actually, the vision board I created of the man I was supposed to meet is almost scary how closely our life resembles the images I picked a year before meeting him. Everything down to a picture of a yellow lab I grabbed 4 years before we got our Max, a yellow English Lab, is just crazy.
  2. Make a list.
    As I have written before, I am a chronic list-maker. I write (or type) everything. When you have your vision board, try and write goals next to them and actions you think you should take to achieve them. Listing your goals and supporting actions on a piece of paper or in a notepad app will help you get specific on how to spend your time to achieve your objectives. Try writing a small personal mission statement describing what you want to do at a high level above your to-do list. This will help direct your efforts and check whether they align to what you want to achieve.
  3. Don’t hide the list.
    This is an important point. In the past, I made lots of lists…lists of what I want to do, lists of action I will take, lists of accomplishments, lists of potential dates for actions, list after list. They were beautiful. The problem was they were always in a pretty notebook on a dark shelf out of sight and out of reach. I would re-visit them but only occasionally. Don’t put your lists away! Have them front and center on a clipboard, bulletin board, whiteboard, or even an open journal on your desk. Don’t let those lists of potential dreams get buried somewhere. Having the list in front of you all the time will make it hard to forget.
  4. Schedule what matters.
    I am drowning in ways to schedule my time and get reminders. I suspect you are too. Between my planner, my wall calendar, my phone, my tablet, my watch….I cannot hide. I have many devices – electronic and paper – where I cannot escape my schedule. Having time scheduled to exercise, write, knit, de-clutter the house, re-plan finances, whatever you want to achieve should be really easy today. Blocking time in the calendar and even setting a reminder, if you have a device, takes away any excuses. Now, like an alarm clock, you can always hit snooze or shut it off. Don’t do that. Keep to your schedule. That will help you achieve what you want. This is hard. I had plenty of times where I thought I just didn’t feel like doing kickboxing or nothing is coming to me when writing. Fight through it. Get it done. Ask yourself, if not now, then when?
  5. Maximize your time.
    I realize that some of us are juggling a lot if we have kids, a house, aging parents, a job, etc., etc. No doubt that some of us really don’t have a ton of time. But, think about what time do you have? 8-10 pm Wednesday nights? 6-8 am Saturday mornings? This is what I started to do; think of my days in terms of chunks of time and designate those chunks to various activities, including my job, exercise, walking the dog, writing, making a project plan for my side hustle and even watching any Food Network Baking Show. For some of you, this may be way too rigorous. You don’t think this leaves room for spontaneity or emergencies. I have had to miss a work-out because I injured my knee. I had to miss a blog when I traveled for my Dad’s health. These things come up. The key is to not let this become your permanent schedule. Resume your schedule next week. Don’t let the one-offs become excuses for why you can’t do something in the future.
  6. Get a partner in crime.
    I have to say that I am very fortunate to have a life partner who is a very motivated individual who owns his own business, raised three kids, coached little league, volunteered and managed to exercise and cook family meals. I am truly riding in his wake. When you are with people who are motivated, it is hard to not be motivated yourself. How do you feel when your best friend just lost 20 pounds? Don’t you start thinking about your own diet and exercise? When your brother just landed a huge promotion, don’t you start thinking about how to maximize your career? Your motivation partner could be a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a neighbor, a friend, a pastor. Whoever is in your life that you admire, connect with them and stay connected. Ask them to be your motivation partner to check in to keep you honest.

These are only half of the tips I have to share about being productive and meeting your goals. You may have your own. Write them down, post them on your wall and follow them. If you are stuck, read some self-help books to get inspired. Some of my favorites are written by Jen Sincero, Amber Rae, Kate Northrup, Martha Beck and Lara Casey. Any of their books are worth a read.

There is no magic pill to get what you want but putting the right structure in place for yourself makes all the difference. Spend time to do that and find a rhythm that works for you. More tips to come next week!

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