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Category Archives: Goals

It’s never fun to feel completely zapped of energy and willpower. It’s a state of being that makes you feel lethargic and less than productive. And, unfortunately, it’s a state that’s easy to slip into with so many of us still working from home or trying to social distance.

How can you break the lethargy and boost your willpower? How can you escape the cycle of procrastination and drudgery? As tempting as they are, distractions are not the answer. You’ll end up tuning in to the fun/entertaining/relaxing distraction and putting off what you should be doing.

Instead, try one of these five tips:

1. Focus on outcomes

The more you focus on the time beyond your procrastination, the easier it will be to move forward. Think about the positive outcomes that will occur when you do whatever it is you’re putting off. If you’re not looking forward to going to the gym, think about how nice it will be to have a healthy, toned body. If you’re dreading filling out a particular report, think about how happy you’ll be once it’s complete. Focusing on outcomes or positive results can give you the willpower you need to do the task at hand.

2. Set bite-sized goals

If you’re sitting on the brink of a large project and you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and set a few bite-sized goals. Every big task can be broken down into smaller parts. If you need to clean your entire garage, for instance, begin by focusing on one particular section (organizing garden tools, for instance, or sweeping the floor). If you have to write a lengthy report, challenge yourself to write a single page or fill out one section. Once you dig in, it will be easier to keep going.

3. Set a reward

Once you’ve determined a few goals, think about how you might reward yourself once they are complete. For smaller goals, you might buy yourself a pint of ice cream or enjoy a glass of wine. For larger goals, you might treat yourself to a nice dinner or a professional massage. Is it bribery? Sure, but it’s bribery with a purpose! Setting rewards will give you something to look forward to and will help give you a jolt of energy and focus.

4. Pinpoint the reason for your reluctance

It’s possible that you’re putting something off because you simply do NOT like it. In some cases, that’s just the way it is; you have to fill out that annual review or write that report, whether you like it or not. In other cases, however, you can change your tasks so they are more enjoyable. For instance, if you do not like running on a treadmill to get in shape, you might switch to a rowing machine or elliptical. If you don’t like cleaning up after dinner, perhaps you could cook, while someone else cleans. At work, you might bring up your likes and dislikes to your boss and see if it’s possible to do more of X and less of Y. Maybe one of your co-workers hates X and loves Y, in which case, you might discuss shuffling responsibilities.

5. Try the 5-minute challenge

What can you do right now, within about 5 minutes? Challenge yourself to set a timer and DO IT. Completing one small task can give you motivation to complete others.

It’s never easy to have low motivation and low willpower, but it is possible to pull yourself out of your slump. Try one (or several) of these 5 tips and see how you feel. Chances are, you just need some forward motion in your life to give you the momentum to keep going.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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How many times has a project or a meeting broken down because of either A) a lack of communication or B) a miscommunication? Unfortunately, this is commonplace and can completely derail conversations, relationships, or projects. What’s more, in the era of work from home, effective communication is getting even trickier. It can be difficult to read body language over Zoom and it’s no longer possible to pop into someone’s office to ask a quick question (thus, making communication that much harder).

How can we strive to improve communication this year? Here are 3 ideas:

1. Practice active listening

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is physiological and can be passive—we can hear sounds or sentences without bothering to interpret them. Listening, however, is active. It involves hearing and interpreting what you hear. Practice active listening by paying attention and absorbing what others say without formulating a response. Too often we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say, that we do not truly pay attention to the speaker.

2. Ask good questions

Even if you think you understand what’s been said, it’s a good idea to ask clarifying questions. Make sure you understand the who/what/where/how of something, before moving on to the next subject. You might try using the “I think I heard” approach. This approach involves repeating back what you think you heard, and asking if that is correct. For example:

“Just to clarify, it sounds like we are going to be prioritizing XYZ this quarter, is that correct?”

For more on asking good questions, please see this blog post all about clarity.

3. Keep meetings to a minimum

You may already suspect this, but it is NOT necessarily a good thing to have more meetings. People are suffering from meeting burnout (especially lately, with so many video chats). What’s more, according to Harvard Business Review, “meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.”

That’s outrageous, and it’s completely unnecessary. Instead of focusing on meeting frequency, focus on meeting quality. Create specific meeting goals, make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, and set a time limit for the meeting. If the meeting involves gathering feedback from your team, try challenging everyone to summarize their thoughts in a minute or two. Concision is key!

Lastly, ask yourself if a meeting is actually necessary. What needs to be accomplished? Can it be achieved through a few quick emails? If so, consider skipping the meeting.

Good communication is often hard to come by. Practice good listening, keep an honest and open line of communication, and work to avoid meeting burnout. Effective communication can be truly transformative for a workplace.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Is it possible to train yourself to be adaptable?

While some people seem to have a natural ability to roll with the punches, almost everyone can train themselves to be more flexible. It just takes a little practice and dedication.

Why work on your personal adaptability?

The short answer:

Change is inevitable. You’re going to encounter change in all aspects of your life at some point or another—professional, interpersonal, and personal. So, why not be prepared?

The longer answer:

Lately, with workplaces adapting to a global pandemic, remote classroom learning, and working from home becoming the new norm, things are quite different than they used to be. All those changes have necessitated a good deal of flexibility, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. This is new turf for many people (and companies). Parents are learning how to juggle work with their children’s distance learning. Managers are learning how to effectively interact with their teams when regular face-to-face meetings are no longer an option. Companies are figuring out how to create personalized experiences for customers through online platforms and other creative means.

Even when the current pandemic is nothing more than a memory, we are bound to encounter major changes again soon. Technology is changing at a rapid clip, public sentiments are constantly shifting, and societal norms are in constant flux. If there’s one thing you can count on in the future, it’s change.

So, how do you train yourself to adapt?

1. Challenge yourself every day

Routine is good, but it’s also healthy to break that routine every once in a while. Commit to doing one thing every day that is slightly uncomfortable for you. Maybe that means working in a new location—perhaps somewhere in your house where you don’t have a complete office setup. Maybe that means calling someone that you don’t know well (a potential client, perhaps) or someone whom you’ve been putting off calling, for whatever reason. Another way to challenge yourself is by learning a new skill. Take an online course or download an app to help you learn anything from film-making to Excel to a new language.

2. Practice letting go

A big part of becoming more adaptable is realizing that you do not have control over everything, and THAT IS OKAY. In fact, it’s good to rescind control every once in a while and let others (or circumstances) take the reins. If you find yourself in a position where you are no longer in the driver’s seat, take a deep breath and a step back. Trust that things will work out without your intervention.

To train yourself to become better at letting go, practice giving others assignments and letting them have autonomy over their projects. If you lead a team, let that team hold brainstorming or strategy sessions without you and trust that they will achieve results. They may not take the exact path you would have taken, but they will likely reach the same destination.

3. Open your mind

Mental flexibility is crucial when it comes to adaptability. It’s healthy to open yourself to a variety of perspectives and points of view, because (surprise!) you may not have all the answers. To increase your mental agility, try practicing active listening. Truly absorb and listen to what others are saying and challenge yourself to ask good questions. After the conversation, try repeating the information you learned to yourself.

Another part of mental flexibility is realizing that there is not usually one way to do things or one way of thinking about things. This realization requires a certain amount of humility. It also takes a curious mind and a willingness to learn. Be a little vulnerable and demonstrate that you are ready and eager to learn and expand your way of doing things.

Adaptability is a critical skill to have today, and it’s bound to be a critical skill tomorrow too. Even if you’re not flexible by nature, you can endeavor to train yourself to be a little more flexible. All it takes is a plan and your commitment.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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