Every year I like to begin my New Year resolution process with an exercise called “Older and Wiser Me.” I picture myself ten years from now. In an effort to reflect on my current path, I check in with my future self to see how I’m doing and what I can change or do differently now. It may sound silly, but the exercise allows me to see my current reality more clearly and think longer term.
Older and wiser Stephenie generally tells me the same things:
“Spend more time with your family, less time working, and give less attention to social media.”
“Use SPF every single day; protect yourself from the sun.”
“Stop worrying and obsessing over your to-do list, things you can’t change, and people you can’t change.”
These are just a few of the items she says (and, trust me, there are more). After this exercise I have more perspective on my life and begin to create my list of New Year’s resolutions. But how do I stick with them so I am not setting the same resolutions next year? I manage my family’s schedule and my workload just fine, but, when it comes to my own needs, I am often too over-committed to everyone else or just too tired.
For 2017, I’ve decided one of my resolutions will be to create a better system for managing myself. I am my most valuable asset, and I can devote time to personal improvement and development. After all, when I am at my best I can give my best. And everyone can benefit a little bit more from our best selves.
Here are some ways you can work to better manage yourself in 2017:
Check yourself. I know you have heard this before, but it is extremely important. The more you can pay attention and check in with yourself, the faster you can assess and get back on track. Release yourself from autopilot mode and release those reoccurring negative thoughts. Stand up, stretch, and go outside for 5 minutes. Come back to your mission and personal values. This practice is essential to staying on track. Set timers, reminders, or wear an item that symbolizes this process to keep it top of mind.
Manage distractions. Did you know that, on average, we laugh for 6 minutes per day but spend over 30 minutes looking for things? Personally, I want to laugh more and look less. Minimize notifications on electronics, especially from social media. Keep a large container of water at your desk so you can avoid the office kitchen. Use the container your mom bought you to store your keys, phone, wallet, etc. Practice saying, “I’d love to hear more about that, but I am on my way to a meeting/working on a timely project. Let’s talk soon.” Take the Effective Edge for Professionals course if you have not, it will provide a system that gives you back 1-2 hours per day! Minimizing distractions gives you the extra time needed to work on yourself.
Be true to your abilities. Are you the best person for this task? Are you spending 3 hours working on that excel file that would take Dave 20 minutes? Is it time to hire that bookkeeper? Are you still typing up meeting notes when you’re better at drawing them? A big lesson learned for me is that I do not enjoy using Microsoft OneNote (and we teach courses using OneNote!). I should, as it’s an amazing tool, but it doesn’t make me feel the way doodling in my paper notebook does, and I waste time trying to figure it out. Being true to our strengths can help us better assess what is a waste of our time or unnecessary to our personal productivity.
Learn how to listen. If you find yourself waiting for a person to stop speaking so you can say something; you are not listening. Listening takes courage and connects us to others which leads to more impactful solutions. Don’t get stuck in the same conversation again and again. Actually listen and reflect, no matter how silly it feels, and then ask questions. Listening is not the same thing as agreeing and often times can reduce actions because the only action needed was for the person to feel heard.
Planning Hour. I know the concept of the planning hour may feel a bit rigid, but it is worth its weight in gold. Take up to one hour a week to prepare for the next week. Put the SPF on the counter with a towel, plan everyone’s outfits, make snacks or meal prep, put the gym bag in the car, download the meditation podcast, put the book in your bag and read it anytime you are waiting in line, etc. Add this planning hour on your calendar and stick to it. Schedule it before an enjoyable activity as a reward; say every Sunday before you watch your favorite show. If scheduling the hour on a Sunday gives you the blues, schedule it for Friday morning. You will feel good all weekend knowing you set yourself up for success.
Enlist a Mentor. It may seem like all of these suggestions are around time. While time is a big reason we fall off track – it’s not the only reason we fail. We need a greater sense of accountability. One way to help you stay accountable is to have a mentor. Think of a mentor as someone who is invested in your achievement. They could be a colleague who went through a similar challenge, a friend who has the same goal, or even a frenemy who would just love to see you fail. Okay, maybe not a frenemy, but picture someone who would support your efforts and listen to your challenges. Schedule regular check-ins with your sponsor and offer a reward for both of you when you are successful, like entering a race, new workout clothes, or a golf game.
I hope some or all of these suggestions will prompt you to consider better self-managing this year. Bookmark this article or make a task to re-read it on February 1st, 2017. You are worth it. I am sure older and wiser Stephenie agrees.