Improving your life starts with changing your focus, priorities and execution.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
We all aspire to be better people, yet too many of us hesitate to roll up our sleeves and tackle the roadblocks that prevent us from achieving that goal. We stay in our comfort zones, fall back on old habits and question why our life isn’t improving.
In my experience as a business coach and entrepreneur, I’ve met my fair share of CEOs and their team members who tell me they’re stuck in a rut―that their business or career is stealing from their lives rather than serving their life’s purpose. My response: Start changing what you are doing in your life because the person you are today will not get you to where you want to be.
The New Year can be an ideal time to start a journey like this. When you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on the road to a better life. Here’s what to do:
1. Start by getting focused.
- Know where you are now. When planning any journey, the first thing you need to know is where you are. In business, you hold monthly and quarterly meetings to review operations and financial statements, so you know how the company is doing at that point in time. Do the same for yourself. First start by rating your satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 when it comes to the five Fs (at my company we call this the Wheel of Life) of family, friends, finance, fitness and faith. This baseline will help you evaluate progress as you move forward.
- Know where you want to go. As respected author and consultant Stephen Covey noted, “Begin with the end in mind.” When you’re growing a business, you want to know what the company will look like one, two and three years down the road―and you build a game plan to accomplish organizational goals. Again, do the same thing for yourself. Know what you want your life to look like. It’s easier to put all the pieces of the puzzle together when you know the end result.
- Stay on task, but don’t multitask. You are less productive when multitasking. If you believe you are the exception, think again. All you’re really doing is quickly switching (and having to re-focus) between tasks. It’s a myth and impossible to do. In our company, when working with new clients or holding seminars, we conduct a multitasking exercise―and every person fails. The next time someone tells you during a job interview that they’re great at multitasking, do not hire that person.
- Limit distractions and control your time. Everyone gets distracted. Some distractions are out of your control (like phone calls from family members), while others are not (like constantly checking email on your smartphone). To limit distractions, block out time on your calendar and let everyone know you are not to be interrupted. Control your time, so you don’t fall victim to demands by others.
2. Written, measurable goals are a must.
- Write down your goals and priorities. The first and most important step toward achieving―and exceeding―your goals and priorities is writing them down. I cannot stress this enough. Writing down your goals and priorities serves as a reminder of what you need to accomplish. Carry your list around with you and act on them every day. Do it for 30 days, and you will be amazed at your progress.
- Be SMART about goals. Being specific about what you want to achieve is one of the hardest things for people when they want to change. Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Remember, if you can’t define it, you can’t measure it; and if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. That’s true in business, and it’s also true in your personal life.
3. Lay a foundation for execution excellence.
- Find your flow. If you’ve played sports, you are probably familiar with the phrase “in the zone” or “in the flow.” It applies to any profession, from songwriting and acting to computer programming and engineering. When you’re in the flow you feel good, have a ton of energy and get a lot of work accomplished. Find the things you need to do on a daily basis (exercise, meditate, read) to stay in the flow―and write them down.
- Hold yourself accountable. Find an accountability partner. Share with them your tasks, priorities and deadlines to accomplish your goals. You are much more likely to succeed when you have someone watching your progress and helping you cross the finish line.
Now’s the time to invest in your personal growth. You are 100 percent responsible for your life, so make a commitment today to following these guidelines. Each step in the journey will get you closer to the person you want to become.