Now that the new year and my birthday are both behind me, it's time to get back into the swing of things. This weekend, I'm auditioning for The Voice (third time's a charm, right?), and we're still rolling full steam ahead on new episodes for Creative Freedom Season Three. If you've got a question you'd like to see me tackle on the show, reach out and let me know.
One of the questions I get asked all the time (at least once a week) is "how do you manage to do so much?"
While it's true I get things done, "a lot" is relative. It's been mostly just me behind the curtain, "hustling" for years (and I've paid the price for that), so I've had to learn how to create a maximum impact with minimal effort. Despite accomplishing much, there are still dozens of things each week that don't happen for me. It can be debilitating to think about what you don't accomplish, but you'll get more mileage out of every day (and do less in the process) if you keep these tips in mind:
This is just a "highlight reel" of what I cover in much more detail in Dreamblazing (which now includes The PEACE System!). It'll get you off to a strong start and help you keep the ball rolling through the year as you move a head on your deepest dreams and desires. Ultimately it comes down to focus and discipline, but that looks different for each of the creative types. When you implement these steps, you'll find more clarity and ease in each day.
I've managed to right-size my to-do list over the years (with tons of practice), and bluntly, saying "no" has been the critical piece to the puzzle.
"Nope. Not gonna do the dishes today."
"Well, I didn't want to take a shower anyway."
"No, I'm not going to sleep until it's done."
If you're on the "hustle and grind" track, you probably know the sound of that kind of "no" very clearly. But there's another side:
"While I'd love to have lunch (so you can pick my brain), I already have a full calendar (a play date with my kid)."
"Sorry. Investing in your five-figure training sounds awesome, but it's not in the budget right now, and no, I'm not going into debt for you."
"No way, Jose! I'm not taking on another job for 'exposure' until my cash flow improves."
"I can't today. This is my day off."
It's another case of ruthless honesty. When you get clear on what really matters to you - in life and work - you have a filter that helps you say yes to more of the right things and no to other opportunities that pop up on your radar that sound sexy, but will distract you from your real goals. But beware, each creative entrepreneur type needs to say no to different things.
Linears need more white space, time off, and personal focus. Very often, they neglect themselves in a drive to reach a result. Not cool. Chaotics, on the other hand, need more stability and (believe it or not) predictability in their schedule - in a way that works for them. Shiny object syndrome can derail their plans quickly (if they even made a plan in the first place), and it's easy for their "go with the flow" behavior to keep them putting out fires instead of looking to the long term. Fusions can get bored even if they're making solid progress. Repetition and routine are important, but can get tedious, so it's important to have space for celebration, time off, and exploring new ideas (while staying on budget).
Creating a list of priorities at the start of the year helps you know what you're driving toward. I teach my clients to set one annual goal in each of the 5 Key Areas of Success, plus a second fitness goal for mental health. Then, they rank each goal in order of importance.
Before you start scheduling plans for the year, you'll already know which goal is the most important. That way, when goals start competing for your time and attention (and they always do at some point), you'll already know which one gets priority. You can take emotions out of the equation and stay focused on the real priority in your life and work. It's easier to say no when stuff pops up that may be fun but isn't in alignment with your top priorities.
Once you've got your priorities worked out for the year, you can break them down into quarterly milestones. What action steps and sub-goals need to be achieved in order to keep you on track to achieve your yearly goal? Some may be ongoing or will require more time to complete than others.
Be clear on your expectations. If your goal is to make a million dollars, you can't assume you'll make $250,000 each quarter. Chances are good you'll make the bulk of that money in the last half or quarter of the year, because of all the other things that have to be in place first.
Same with weight loss. If you've struggled to lose weight for years, it's absurd to expect you'll miraculously start losing 10 pounds every month so that you can be down 100 pounds by the end of the year. The first quarter of the year will likely focus on building habits - and there'll be a lot of falling off the wagon you'll have to deal with. But as the new habits start to stick, you'll start to see faster progress and the avalanche of results - which again, will likely happen in the latter half of the year.
In my opinion, this is a big reason why so many people ditch their resolutions. Aside from not writing down their goals at all, that is. They plan their goal all neat and orderly, assuming they'll stay motivated and make steady progress toward their goal.
That's not how goal attainment works for most of us. Despite the best attempts of most Linears, success is rarely a steady, incremental thing. There's a lot of plot twists, leaps forward, steps back, re-tracing of steps, and then we get forward momentum once we figure shit out.
You'll want to review your goals and priorities quarterly because even the best laid plans can go off track when "life happens." Moving to Nashville was not my top priority at the beginning of 2016. By Summer, however, my priorities shifted when we filed the divorce papers. Nashville then became a top priority for me, so my other goals had to shift.
New episodes of Creative Freedom didn't get done because I had to pack up all my studio gear. The podcast was delayed, but the items that were most important still got checked off my list. Sometimes you have to rearrange your priorities to accommodate your top priority. It happens more often than you might think.
This was something I learned as a direct sales leader that I've used in my own organizations and with all my clients ever since. If you make time for it on the calendar, it has a greater chance of getting done than if you try to squeeze it in between meetings or when you have some "free time" - ha! What's that?
In short, every little thing that's got to be done to achieve your goal needs to be on the calendar. If you're delegating it, then you need to add a follow-up date in your calendar. Chaotics will reel against all this minutiae, but I'm here to tell you that until it becomes first nature, you'll want to create the habit of scheduling everything.
Whatever you use to track your to-do's is fine, just make sure the long-range stuff gets on the calendar. If you're writing a book and you leave it open-ended, that project will keep getting pushed down the to-do list in favor of other more pressing needs (putting out fires). If you want that book done, carve out specific time blocks in your calendar to work on it - and give yourself a small deadline (like completing the first chapter by the end of February). This will create the optimal amount of pressure to help you double your results in less time. Too much pressure, and you'll crack (especially if you're a Chaotic), but just enough of a deadline often primes the pump to get moving. You might even find that you want to finish it sooner because it's taking up so much time on your calendar. Without that visual, getting that chapter done might drag on for months.
Not sure how much time you need to complete the project? Work backwards. This takes longer, but it's worth the clarity it provides. For unwieldy projects, I use mind mapping to get clear on all the elements of the project, and then get as detailed as I can on each step toward the goal. Only then can I see which step needs to come first, second, third, etc. Once I know the first step, I put it on the calendar. If it's a task, I put it on the to-do list as well, but it's important to block out time for accomplishing your to-do's or they simply won't get done. It's one of the reasons I still put "shower," "lunch," and "laundry" on my calendar. If I don't, I'll fill that time with something else and those things won't get done.
I've been writing about this for a few years now, but the research shows that SMART goals are broken. But D.U.M.B. goals are a different story. When you are taking action on things that are doable, understandable, meaningful and believable, it's much easier to stay the course. I've seen it bear out time and again in my own life as well as with my clients.
It's easier to focus on what really matters when what really matters to you is your focus. It sounds like a paradox, but it's not. When you focus on what matters to you, you naturally stay more focused. It's what I call the "video game effect". My boys all love video games and when they start playing, the world around them falls away. World War Three could be going on outside, and they'd never know because they are engrossed in their game. They're focused like a laser on what matters to them. And God forbid you try to interrupt them - if you can interrupt them at all.
For most of us it's not a question of focus, it's a question of what we're focused on. When you can invest more of your time, energy, and resources into what really matters for you, it's naturally easier to stay focused. Plan your year around what really matters to you and you'll have a natural advantage when it comes to achieving those goals.
Join us in Dreamblazing. It's more than a planner. It helps you define your goals, get them in priority order, and lay out a path to achievement. If you want to be more confident, have more clarity, and be focused this year on what really matters, give yourself the gift of Dreamblazing.