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To be human is to change.

As we go through life, we experience countless changes—some physical (our health, our appearance), some professional (transitioning careers, changing professional goals or roles), some relational (friends moving away, relationships ending). We might not notice the changes day to day, but over the years most of us change quite a bit.

How often have you heard someone remark on how “naïve they were in their twenties” or “how much energy they used to have”? Or, maybe you’ve heard someone remark on their appearance (“When did I get so many wrinkles!”) or comment on how their industry has changed throughout the years.

Here’s the bottom line: Change is inevitable, and it’s a good idea to make peace with it. In fact, it’s an even better idea to plan for it.

Of course, you can’t plan everything. Sometimes, all we can do is go with the flow and adapt as best we can. However, we can pave the way for our “future selves” in some ways.

Take your career aspirations, for instance. How often do you pause, examine your current state, and ask yourself what you’d like for yourself in the future? Do you think much about the next steps in your career? Or are you typically so bogged down with daily tasks, that you rarely look ahead to the future?

I challenge you to set aside some time this week to simply examine where you are now and think about where you’d like to go. Spend time reflecting, jotting down a few notes, and truly digging in to your current state of mind. Are you relatively content, or itching for a change? Is your path clear, or is it a bit murky? Is there anything that’s been weighing you down lately?

These moments of examination and reflect are vital for both professional success and overall happiness. Sure, you might be making progress every day…but are you heading down the right path?

During this reflection time, spend some time visualizing “future me.” What does your future self look like? What are you doing? What are you accomplishing? How did you get to this ideal future state? Visualization is a powerful tool (used by everyone from professional athletes to Oprah) and can help you to begin seeing your future success as a reality.

So, block off some time on your calendar (even half an hour!) and commit to reflecting on your current circumstances, your goals, and your “future me.” You, and your career, are worth making this time investment. It could make all the difference.

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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Man looking at wall of plans

If you’ve found yourself working from home all of sudden, you might be feeling disoriented or downright unproductive. This isn’t your typical workspace. This isn’t your daily routine. Now, you’re free to wake up later, work in your pajamas, and browse social media or watch TV without fear of someone catching you. Even the most disciplined of people may be having difficulties making the adjustment. How can you possibly put in a solid day’s work when you’re distracted by bad news and feelings of dread?

One of the most powerful ways to anchor yourself and increase your productivity is to establish your Goals + Routine.

This is a trick that work-from-home folks are quite familiar with. Set your goals (both your macro and micro-level goals) and fit them into a set routine. Just don’t forget to build some flexibility into your goals and routine because life happens. Maybe your son or daughter drops a stack of dishes. Or your boss requests an extra Zoom meeting. Or you hit some kind of snag in your current project.

Building flexibility into your Goals + Routine helps you navigate through the bumps in the road, rework your plan, and keep on moving.

How do you begin planning your Goals + Routine? Start with these steps:

1. Outline your big-picture goals

What things would you like to accomplish by the end of the year, or even further out? Which objectives will occupy a good chunk of your headspace and time over the next several months?

These objectives could be professional (finish a major project, earn a promotion, etc.) or personal (get in shape, read 25 books this year, learn a new language)

2. Break down your big-picture goals into smaller steps

What are a few steps you’ll need to take to reach your big-picture objectives? Think of these are your milestones.

3. Outline your quarterly goals

What smaller goals would you like to achieve? (This step is optional if it overlaps too much with Step #2).

4. Outline your weekly goals

This is HUGELY important. When people make a to-do list, they are often thinking of THAT day, and not the week as a whole. By laying out what you’d like to accomplish this week, you allow some room for flexibility.

5. Outline your weekly STRETCH goals

If you are highly productive and everything goes according to plan this week, what could you accomplish? If you don’t hit your stretch goals, don’t beat yourself up; if you do reach them, celebrate!

6. Outline your daily goals

Start your day by creating a to-do list. Include both personal and professional goals you’d like to achieve today. If you have any time-sensitive commitments, be sure to include those first, and then work around them with other tasks. It can be helpful to add a timeframe for these tasks (i.e. work on a proposal for one hour, go jogging for 45 minutes, etc.)

7. Establish your routine

Once you’ve finished your goal-setting (keep in mind that the daily and weekly goals will be continuous), write up a daily routine for yourself. Your mornings are particularly important for setting yourself up for a good day.

PRO TIP: Include both the things you DO want to do and the things you do NOT want to do. Here’s an example:

DAILY ROUTINE:

  • 6:30 a.m: Wake up
  • 6:45-7:15 a.m. Do yoga/stretching
  • Get dressed, make coffee, and eat a healthy breakfast
  • 7:30 a.m: Check and reply to emails
  • 8:30 a.m: Write out daily task list
  • 12:30 p.m: Break for lunch
  • 3:00 p.m: Take the dog for a walk
  • 5:30 p.m: Start wrapping up work
  • 6:30 p.m: Make dinner
  • 8:30 p.m: If the day did not go according to plan, use an hour or two at night to do work I meant to do earlier.

DO NOT:

  • Stay in pajamas
  • Snack throughout the day
  • Forget to write my daily to-do’s
  • Neglect to move around
  • Get frustrated by distractions
  • Neglect to connect with others

To help you prepare your Goals + Routine, I’ve created the following printable handout. Enjoy!

Click to Download PDF

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Image via Pixabay.com

Do you feel driven by a larger mission or purpose, but you’re distracted by day-to-day responsibilities? Does it feel like you’re only inching ahead when you should be sprinting? Are you wondering how on earth to make a positive impact when you’re so darn busy?

You’re not alone.

Many people want to make a difference in the world, but have trouble finding their footing. They might feel like they’re too busy, distracted by other responsibilities, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, or unsure of where to begin. How can you become a change agent when so much is holding you back?

Take heart, it is possible for even the busiest person to make waves. Start with these seven steps:

1. Start thinking conceptually

Conceptual thinkers are able to take a step back from their daily work and explore the bigger picture. They think about widespread, systemic change. They reflect on what kind of action is needed to make an impact at all levels. For example, if a conceptual thinker’s goal is to cut pollution, they might consider local action first—promoting carpooling or biking, participating in local advocacy groups, etc. Then, they might consider statewide action—pollution-cutting legislation, campaigns to build more bike lanes. Lastly, they might consider systemic, nationwide action such as advocating for federal laws that require stricter efficiency in cars.

To become a conceptual thinker, start researching the cause you are passionate about and find out how the local, statewide, and national pieces connect. Figure out who the major players are and what is already being done to help. Then, reflect on potential actions you could take to participate in the “good fight.”

2. Set incremental goals

Goal-setting works. If you’re determined to make a difference, try setting several concrete goals and working backwards—what steps do you need to take to get there? By breaking down your goals into bite-sized pieces, they will be more manageable and you’ll be able to celebrate small victories along the way (for more on goal-setting, see my past blog post).

3. Find like-minded dreamers

There’s no need to be alone in your advocacy. Seek others who are as interested in your cause as you are and become a part of their community. You might find these like-minded folks online, through meet-up groups (such as Meetup.com), in local clubs, through work groups, or even among your friends.

Once you find your community, lean on them for support and inspiration. They are the ones who can help you when you’re feeling stuck or unsure of your next steps.

You can also use members of your community to be accountability partners. Challenge them to hold you accountable for sticking to your advocacy goals through regular check-ins. Don’t forget to return the favor!

4. Anticipate resistance…and create a plan to overcome it

Daily life and unexpected troubles are sure to get in the way of becoming a change agent. You might get bogged down by a large project, a family illness, or unexpected financial troubles. Don’t fret! These things happen. If something suddenly gets in the way of achieving your advocacy goals, wait until the trouble has passed, revisit your goals, and rethink them. Reset your deadlines and develop a new plan for making a difference. Everyone has to deal with setbacks from time to time—just don’t let a setback become a defeat.

5. Don’t do everything yourself

The greatest change agents recognize that they do not have to go it alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a project—say, you’re running a blood drive and more people signed up than you originally anticipated—reach out to others and ask for help. Don’t think of asking for help as a sign of weakness; great leaders are also great delegators.

6. Build your resilience

You’re going to feel worn down by work, life events, and all the good work you’re doing to become a champion of change. That’s normal. When you’re feeling exhausted, take a conscious break, unplug from your duties, and give your overworked brain time to cool down. You can build your resilience by stepping away for a while and then facing your challenges once you feel rejuvenated. Part of resilience also involves recognizing that things are not always going to go perfectly, but you can and you will overcome the bumps in the road. Think of each setback as an opportunity to try again, not as a failure.

Are you excited to go out there and make a positive difference? I’m excited for you! Though you are but one person, there’s so much you can do. Start small, develop your plan, build your support group, and start making an impact. The world needs your contribution.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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