“My typical day begins with a six-mile run, power smoothie, and laundry all before 8am.”
We often celebrate the “women who do it all” in popular magazines. Our wide eyes study packed schedules and our jaws drop at what our own look like in comparison. How do these women do it? Should I be making a power maca root smoothie at 6am too?
No. These schedules aren’t sustainable and maca root will not do your tasks for you. It’s time to stop putting celebrity schedules on a pedestal and assess our lives with clear eyes. When there are goals to hit, promotions to seize, or new business ventures to embark on, it’s imperative to stay realistic in order to get there.
Follow these five steps for a plan of attack.
Step 1: Clarify
Every road has obstacles. To set yourself up for success, begin with clarifying what your mission is so you can navigate the inevitable bumps along the way.
Start with a statement of purpose. It might sound like a cheesy high school essay, but it will help you refocus when competing priorities surface.
To begin, answer, “If I could truly excel at only one thing, what would it be? How will I know when I succeeded?”
It doesn’t have to be elegantly written, just a concrete statement of your goal and how you will know when you’ve reached it. It can even be on a post-it note.
You’ll thank yourself later.
Step 2: Choose
How do you balance your personal pursuit with friends, family, and other demands? It’s impossible to spin all the plates at once, so you must choose.
Take a note from LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, who follows the philosophy, “fewer things done better.”
In pursuit of the essential few, weed out the trivial many. As much as we want to say “yes” to what people ask of us, we need to practice “no” in order to prioritize ourselves.
Start with an inventory of where your time goes. How do you spend your hours at work and outside of work? How many social outings do you have each week? What demands are non-negotiable and where can you get creative?
Step 3: Uncommit
Now, take a red pen to your schedule and go wild. The point of this exercise is to create time to pursue your goal, so slash everything that is inessential. We all love a Wine Wednesday, but Savvy B can wait for you at the finish line.
Next, look at the remaining “non-negotiable” commitments. These could include: the work commute, picking up kids from school, exercise, or even taking the time to cook a healthy dinner. There are some things we cannot sacrifice—but we can get crafty.
Try the following to uncommit and free up more time:
- Set up a carpool to help with kids.
- Combine social outings with fitness, such as a lunch hour walk with coworkers or a fitness class with friends.
- Meal prep to cut down the week’s cooking time.
- Delete or limit social media usage (this saves an average of 4 hours/week!).
- Take public transportation or carpool to work, and put your commute time to use.
- Fit social engagements or exercise into your lunch hour.
To lean in, sometimes we must lean on. Don’t be afraid to leverage friends, family members, and the community for support. People are usually more than willing to help when you express the concrete goal you’re working towards.
Step 4: Learn the word, “No.”
Now that you’ve cut down your schedule to only the essential, you have to keep it that way.
It sucks to hear no and it sucks to say no, but without those two magical little letters, you’ll drown in the commitments that thwart you from your single highest point of contribution.
Steve Jobs once hired renown designer Paul Rand to create a logo for his company, NeXT. Jobs asked Rand to provide several logos for him so he had options to choose from. In response, Rand said no, he would provide only one logo so he could focus on the best possible proposition. Jobs was first taken aback by this reply but then gained respect for Rand’s confidence. Jobs fell in love with what Rand delivered, and the NeXT logo was created.
When someone asks something of you, take a second before you instinctively commit yourself. Is this really worth your time? What is the opportunity cost – or what are you sacrificing towards your mission in order to say yes to this request?
Step 5: Execute
Now that the path is free from obstacles, how do you move forward?
Execute a plan, a routine, and remember the power of focus.
First, plan out your time and what needs to be done in order to succeed. Set milestones for yourself at strategic points. By including small wins, you’ll celebrate incremental progress and maintain motivation when the going gets tough.
Next, create a routine that squeezes out the most juice from the time you’ve fiercely defended. Know which environment suits your productivity best, and eliminate any distractions during these blocks. When you continually return to this time and place, your brain locks into work mode more quickly and allows you to get more done.
Lastly, exercise focus. Always remember your mission and look back at the goal you wrote down in Step #1.
When you choose your goal, you choose you. You’re the protagonist of your own life, aren’t you?