The 15-Minute Miracle

If I were to counsel you to work on your goals for just 15 minutes a day, you’d probably have a good laugh. What can you accomplish in 15 minutes, after all – right?

But, let me assure you, any big goal can be achieved by working in consistent 15-minute chunks every day. No matter whether your goal is huge or small, personal or professional, dedicating a come-hell-or-high-water 15 minute segment to it every day will achieve miracles.

One of the most common complaints about goals is that there just isn’t enough time to work on it after all your responsibilities have been taken care of. You’re just too exhausted to even think about the goal. “I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time to devote to it right now.” In the back of your mind you’re hoping for that magical day when you will have time… but as we all know, that day never comes. Ever. The amount of stuff you have to do on a day to day basis might fluctuate somewhat, but realistically, unless you take a paid leave of absence from your responsibilities, your time is never going to free up to the point where you can devote serious time to your goal.

Here’s a no-compromises solution: devote 15 minutes a day to it. It doesn’t matter if all you do is compose an email… or order business cards… or make one phone call… or write 1/10 of a blog. It doesn’t matter how much you accomplish. What matters is THAT you accomplish. Something. Anything.

The miracle in this is twofold:

1. You create a habit of consistent action. You train yourself to take action on your goal every day (at least 5 days a week). You discipline yourself to take action whether you feel like it or not. You won’t create magic every day, but you will keep the creative juices flowing and even if you have to go back and redo something later, so what? You’ve only spent 15 minutes on it before, and it’s a lesson in how not to do that thing. It’s all good. It’s all steps in the right direction.

2. You will rarely spend only 15 minutes. Yes, there will be days when even 15 minutes seems like an eternity because you’re overwhelmed with the rest of your to-do list. But you’ll be shocked at how quickly 15 minutes will turn into 30, or 60, once you’re happily immersed in what you’re doing.

Here’s how to implement the 15-minute miracle:

1. Be very clear on what you want to achieve.

2. If you have some idea of what steps you need to take to get there, break the steps down into their smallest components and take on as many of those components as will fit into a 15-minute time block. Prioritize the steps.

3. Write down a week’s worth of 15-minute action steps. This way, you can dive right in and make serious progress every time.

4. Try to be consistent about the time of day you work on your goal. This will help make it a habit. Suggestion – first thing in the morning works best, because your mind is fresher, you aren’t exhausted from work, and you can tell yourself, “just 15 minutes” and stick to it because you do have to motivate yourself to actually do something before you get going to work.

5. Track your progress to motivate yourself. Daily progress is very satisfying!

At the end of one year, you will have allocated at least 62-½ hours if you’re working on your goal 5 days a week and take a 2-week holiday; or, at least 87-½ hours if you work on it 7 days a week and take a 2-week holiday. That’s a lot of time when you consider that it is time spent on focused action, not la-di-da ruminating or busywork.

 

Inspired by Jeri Dansky’s  blog on http://unclutterer.com/

How to Take Your Goals Seriously (So They Light You On Fire)

It’s one thing to have great goals that inspire you, and it’s another to have goals that light you on fire to the point where nothing will stop you. Only the on-fire goals will be achieved because inspiration can wane, motivation can be hard to come by, and unless you’re on fire about something, life will get in the way.

You probably have a really awesome goal that has been brewing in the back of your head, and you may be taking action on it. Even making major progress. But are you moving as fast as you can toward your goal? Do you feel stuck? Are you focused on the 20% of your actions that will yield 80% of your results? Are you achieving a good work/life balance?

If not, it’s mostly due to not being on fire. You may have a great action plan, but unless you’re on fire about your daily tasks and unless you’re giving them all you’ve got (instead of just going through the motions), your progress will be spotty.

Here’s how to turn a inspired goal into an on-fire goal:

1. Visualise. An idea that lives in your head isn’t a verbal idea, it’s a mental image. So every day, for at least 5 minutes, use visualisation to add character and richness to that mental image of your goal. Put yourself in the picture. Use your senses to add realism. For every detail that is missing, create one. For example, if your goal is to live in a villa on the Mediterranean, every time you “visit” your dream villa in your imagination, add a detail. Picture yourself and your family lounging on the veranda. Add the scent of bougainvillea and ocean breezes. Infuse the scene with sounds of music, laughter, etc… you get the idea. And don’t forget feelings – you have to be totally in love with your goal! The more you can visualise your ideal scene every single day, the more your mind will pick up on the fact that this is really, really important to you. That’s when you’ll start noticing even more opportunities and ways and means than you did before. That’s when things will start to fall together magnificently.

2. Write down your targets – the big picture, the intermediate milestones, the short-term goals and the daily stuff. Now go beyond the “business” of writing down your goals and write about how you will feel when you reach your milestones. Happy! Yeah! And even beyond that, how you will have evolved and grown. Write about it as if it’s a done deal and watch as your predictions come true!

3. Have fun. What’s the point of a great goal if you’re going to be miserable during the time you’re working on your goal? Nooooo! So many people do that – they slave away for their goals and in the meantime, they forget to live. The whole point is to have a blast while you’re in the process. It IS about the journey! Take the attitude of play and don’t take it so seriously. Don’t let it become “work” even if it is hard, or temporarily monotonous.

These very simple things will keep the fires of passion burning hot. They will motivate you to action even when you don’t feel like it – but you will feel like it, because it feels so great to work on your goals!

 

Inspired by Celestine’s blog on http://celestinechua.com/

How to Reduce Distraction When You’re Working on Your Goals

Distractions have a nasty way of sneaking up on you and ruining a perfectly productive day. Unless you live in a perfect world, you will have distractions. Even if you live in a cave, you will have distractions. Here’s how to reduce distractions and minimise their impact:

1. Unplug. Turn off cell phones, electronic notifications and social media. Even in this instant-availability world, you have a right to be able to focus on what you’re doing without being at everybody’s beck and call 24/7. Set aside an hour of noise-free work. People can wait an hour. Seriously. And you might get to like this so much that you will turn off your electronics for several hours at a time. Imagine how productive you’ll be!

2. Don’t take it so seriously. When you hear the word “focus,” you probably imagine yourself cloistered away somewhere, head down, buried in what you’re doing. Well, yes. But who says that focus has to be serious? That it has to be “work”? If you have kids, you know how immersed they get in their play. When they pretend, they’re all in it, 100%. The secret to focus is being relaxed, curious and playful. The more you can chill out, become fascinated with your project and infuse what you’re doing with joy, the easier it is to focus.

3. Manage your internal distractions. The urge to get up every 15 minutes to have a drink of water or coffee; the urge to check your email/social media; the inner voice that helpfully reminds you of the things you would rather be/should be doing. Here’s how to silence the inner chatter. Simply say, “Shhhh, not now.” to yourself every single time you have an intrusive thought. Give your mind a direct order – you are working on something and it needs to be onboard with that. This might sound like a silly thing to say to yourself, but it works. It immediately shuts down that train of thought, and allows you to return to your task.

4. Clear the clutter. Clean your workspace so that there is less to visually distract you and/or remind you of other things  you need to do.

5. Finish what you start. Unfinished business has a way of hovering around you like a horsefly. It just won’t go away until you’ve finished it.

6. Make it a habit. Once a day, devote a minimum of 15 minutes to your goal. Ultimately you have nobody, and nothing, to blame if your goal doesn’t get achieved. If you devote just 15 minutes a day to it, your small steps will add up and multiply to huge results that will defy the odds – why? Because in 15 minutes, you can make a big mistake; and in the next 15, you can fix the mistake, learn from it and move on. Success has often been called the combination of a series of failures; so the more action you take, the more you mess up… and the more you learn and apply what you’ve learned. Then, you will succeed.

 

Inspired by http://www.43folders.com

A Wake-Up Call

There’s an inherent danger in becoming good at what you do.

You get complacent.

We all do this. We master a task, skill or craft, and then we relax because we’re churning out pretty decent work. Or, we get overwhelmed with other stuff and turn our attention elsewhere, believing that we can continue to do what we do so well, practically in our sleep.

And it can be a very rude wake-up call when our work is rejected or criticised. The ego takes a hit, especially when it involves something we are passionate about and know we’re good at.

But instead of taking it as a slap in the face (after all, you are a master at what you do, how dare anyone insult your magnificence!) take it – with a big huge heartfelt thank you. THANK your critics for pointing out that you’ve become complacent, or that your skills aren’t keeping up with the rest of the universe, or that you’ve misdirected your time and energy and you’re overwhelmed trying to do it all and your passion has slipped through the cracks.

Even if you didn’t notice it was happening, others did.

Wow, what a blessing, to be made aware!

Business owners especially have so many hats to wear that we can forget to focus on what we’re really good at. And by focus, I mean practice what we’re good at. Keep learning, keep pushing, keep challenging. Never stand still as still water becomes stagnant very quickly. Don’t let your skills become rusty through neglect. Keep yourself sharp, even if it means a financial hit of having to hire help so you can focus on your passion. In the end, the ROI is far greater if you do what you should be doing versus what you could delegate or outsource.

It’s not easy to swallow your pride when your work is rejected or criticised, but when you look beyond the emotions of the moment and you realise just how much of a blessing it is to be told that you could be doing something better… I hope you can see what a great opportunity you’ve been offered to get your spark back!

Whether you work for someone else or you’re an entrepreneur, never believe yourself “good enough.” Not only do you endanger your position or your business by becoming complacent, but you stagnate, and that’s the worst kind of mental death. How boring, to be good at something you were good at in 1997. Be great at something in 2014! Reach higher!

 

Inspired by a post on: http://lifedev.net/

What To Do When Everything Goes Wrong

“When you find yourself in hell, keep going.”
~ Winston Churchill

“The best way out is always through.”
~ Robert Frost

It’s easy to think of happiness as something we experience when things are going well. And for many people, that’s the way it is. They are happy only when things are good, and miserable the rest of the time.

The fact is, happiness isn’t a product of a problem-free life. It’s a choice that is aided by your ability to deal with problems. So when things go horribly wrong in your business and your life, here’s how to infuse everything with happiness, and come out smiling on the other side:

1. Realise that change is a constant. Things will never remain horrible. They will never remain great. And, if you choose to see things as horrible, they will weigh on your mind much more than if you do your best to laugh them off, learn from the challenges, make the best of the situation and choose to be optimistic and cheerful. That’s not to say you should deny your feelings, or put on a fake happy face! It means choose to see the situation from a different perspective. How can this situation help you grow? How can you be enriched by it?

2. Worrying changes nothing. Complaining changes nothing. In fact, complaining is a pain in the arse for everyone around you, and worrying does nothing to solve the situation. Instead, step back and look at what the situation is teaching you.

3. Don’t be a victim, be a victor. Life will leave you with scars. If you look at your body, you will probably see a few scars. Do you still feel the pain of the injury? No. The scar means that the pain is gone, the wound is healed and you are stronger for the experience. So be thankful for the challenges you’ve gone through, and take ownership for your role in them. Becoming responsible is actually extremely empowering. And it makes you happy. If you created “this” (a problem) then you can create “that” (a solution). Take that power and run with it!

4. As the old saying goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” It’s all in how you choose to look at things. Happiness comes from a conscious choice to see the best in a situation and not focus on the worst.

5. Be grateful. Gratitude eliminates worry, anxiety, anger, frustration and guilt. How is this challenge helping you? Enriching you? It might take time to uncover the hidden blessings, but they are there.

How can this help you when your business is failing? Take the lessons from the situation and apply them. Yes, this business may close its doors but that’s not the end of the world. You can refocus, pick up the pieces and rebuild them in a much more effective and successful way.

As Marc Chernoff says, “You have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting every step of the way. Laugh at the confusion, live consciously in the moment, and enjoy your life as it unfolds. You might not end up exactly where you intended to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be.”

 

Inspired by a blog post by Marc Chernoff on http://www.marcandangel.com/.

Overworked? Stop That Nonsense!

In some industries, overwork is considered not only normal but desirable. Wall Street analysts, doctors and lawyers are notorious for working ridiculous hours in return for equally ridiculous salaries. Eighty-hour, even hundred-hour work weeks are not uncommon – and incredibly stupid.

That’s an idiotic trend that has unfortunately spread like a disease to other industries. People feel like they need to be on call 24/7, connected by the umbilical cords of cell phones and email. In our instant-gratification world, you might think that you have no choice in the matter. If you don’t produce results, somebody else will get the job. Boundaries are being blurred, and life suffers.

And ironically, productivity goes down – after all, you cannot expect your brain or your body to function optimally, with the required focus and concentration, for long periods without breaks. Back before connectivity, people would go home and leave their work at their job. Not anymore. Especially in industries where billable hours drive business (such as law), quality inevitably declines with overwork.

Although overwork has become synonymous with prosperity and success, if you really want to get the most out of your life, STOP doing that. If you’re an employee who is expected to be available at the company’s whim anytime, change jobs. It’s not worth it. Think about your deathbed for a moment (sorry, grim reminder) – looking back at your life, were all those interruptions in family time worth it?

Simply put, the longer you work, the less efficient and effective you become. Mistakes mount up quickly, burnout becomes almost inevitable, and you are left with a nice fat paycheck and a completely empty life.

So no matter what you’re doing, focus on quality, not quantity. Create action plans to be sure you’re following the 80/20 rule where 80% of your results come from the critical 20% of your actions.

If your industry demands this kind of life-sucking sacrifice from you, and you are not truly madly in love with what you do (to the point that you choose to do it every day, all day) then ask yourself, is this worth it? Would you be better off choosing an industry that is more suited to a well-rounded life – and still makes buckets of money?

If you’re an entrepreneur, delegate. It’s cheaper in the long run to hire help than it is to run yourself into the ground and lose your zest for living.

In short – work smarter, not harder.

 

Inspired by a an article by James Surowiecki from The New Yorker posted on http://www.gtdtimes.com/

How Balanced Are Your Goals?

If you’re finding yourself sacrificing too much to achieve your goals, the following tips can help you bring balance back into your life, and give you a lot more enjoyment out of the whole process. This takes a little introspection but it’s so very worth it in the end!

1. Begin with the visionary aspect of yourself. Look at your goal and look at the big picture of how this fits in with your life, how it affects your life and how it benefits you. How are you spreading your energy and managing your time? Is some part of the big picture not getting the attention it needs? For example, are you neglecting exercise in favour of “just another hour at the office” to finish a project? Are your relationships suffering in favour of your goals? Of course there will be times when you have to throw yourself 100 percent into something, but in general you want your goals to fit into your life, not push it aside. Otherwise, the joy of achievement will be very hollow and incomplete.

2. Next, examine your inner collaborator. Relationships really are everything, at the end of the day. Who can help you achieve your goal(s)? Who needs more attention from you? Do you need to reach out to someone you’ve been “meaning to” call but haven’t? You just never know who can help you, even in a very small way. Keep your relationships alive and healthy.

3. Look at your inner organiser. Do you have a sense of order? Is your workspace and home chaotic and messy, which sucks energy from you – or are you able to give your energies to what is really important because all of your unfinished business has been attended to? Do you have any items on your to-do list that you’ve been procrastinating on? Get them done, get them out of your head and move on to bigger and better things!

4. Finally, look at your inner driver. How’s your motivation? What’s the status of your milestones? What can you do to motivate yourself and drive action? Are you “busy” in certain areas of your life and procrastinating on others? Is your action too focused, or not focused enough? Do your actions positively affect your whole life? Are you following the 80/20 rule (80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your actions)?

These aspects of you are very important. We often talk about areas of life that need balancing, but if you put these four aspects of yourself into action, you’ll find it easier to achieve your goals:

  • the driver can make things happen but doesn’t see the big picture (so can become obsessed with the goal); keep the driver in check with a solid vision, and with a conscious eye on collaboration.
  • the visionary sees the big picture, but might get overwhelmed and can be prone to procrastination; to temper the vision with a dose of reality, the organiser can chunk tasks into manageable portions and create a plan that supports the vision.
  • the organiser is good at being on-task, but without direction from the visionary, it doesn’t know what to do next. Without impetus from the driver, it won’t take a step.
  • the collaborator nurtures relationships, but is not action-oriented. The visionary, driver and organiser help the collaborator stay on track while strengthening relationships.

Final thought: don’t forget your inner slacker! Sometimes, you need a break from it all, to do nothing whatsoever, with no agenda, no to-do list, no rules, no obligations… nothing. The slacker balances the four go-getters very nicely. Just don’t let the slacker get too comfortable, because while inertia can be fun for a little bit, in the long run it’s deeply unsatisfying.

 

Inspired by Dr. Ginny Whitelaw’s blog on http://integrallife.com/

Be the Boss of You

If you’re tired of the corporate grind, or you’re done with slaving away for someone else’s dream, entrepreneurship probably looks really, really enticing.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well. Thousands of new businesses open every year worldwide, and if you go about it with the right mindset, you’ll succeed. Are you ready to be your own boss? The rewards can be awesome but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

If you’re wondering if you’re really ready to hang your shingle and put out the OPEN sign, there are a few areas you must consider:

1. Are you ready to embrace change, step into the unknown and do things you’ve never done… and do things you’ve always done but differently? Lesson #1 is that although it might seem like a monumental change to take the leap into entrepreneurship, change is already happening all the time, all around you and within you. Take a little while to lay some groundwork. Write down where you’re doing well in life, and what you’ve done to be successful there. That will give you some confidence. Next, realize that although quitting your job and going out on your own is huge, you don’t have to do it all in one fell swoop. Many people start a side biz and then make it full-time when the time is right. No need to starve while you wait for your first checks to come in, even if you don’t have a substantial nest egg that you can live off for some time.

2. Are you ready to challenge the status quo and do things differently? Here again some introspection will prove very valuable. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What can you learn from your weaknesses and what can you do differently to strengthen those areas? Keep doing what a) feels right and b) yields good results – and don’t be afraid to radically or subtly change what isn’t working.

3. Are you ready to give up control? The fact is, unless your business is very, very small and you have but a few clients, you’re eventually going to need to delegate or even outsource. You simply cannot do it all, and have any joy in what you’re doing – and you certainly won’t have a life outside your business. You MUST give up control. Focus on what you are good at, and cheerfully delegate the rest. Give people a sense of pride and ownership in the company and let them handle things in their own way – it might not be your way, but as long as it’s effective, it’s a good way! Always be open to alternatives. Remember, it’s not “your way or the highway” unless you’re a third-world dictator.

4. Do not be a victim. Always take 100% responsibility for everything in your company. You cannot be passive as a boss and blame your employees (you were managing them, right?); you cannot blame the economy (vast fortunes are made in the worst depressions); you cannot blame poor marketing strategies (without blaming yourself, because you approved them, right?). Of course you cannot possibly be expected to know and master every aspect of business but the quicker you take responsibility, LEARN from the situation and redirect your efforts, the quicker you’ll bounce back and succeed.

5. Finally, HAVE FUN! That’s why you’re in this, right? Enjoy the hell out of your business. Pour your passion, enthusiasm, curiosity and good energy into it. Laugh as much as you can at your own foibles and screw-ups. Bounce even higher every time you fall and know that for every second you’re spending on your business is a second you are spending on YOUR dream.

 

Inspired by a blog post on: http://blog.ideacafe.com

The Busy Person’s Goals-Achievement Tips

We’re all busy. Life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to achieving your personal or business goals. If you learn these simple time management tricks, you will achieve anything you desire, much faster than you would if you waited around for “when I have time.”

These tips take a little prep time in the beginning but they’ll have a huge ROI in terms of making the most of your precious time, no matter how many balls you are juggling. They are the secret to goals-achievement when you’re super busy – the secret is not “finding time.”

1. Be clear on what you want. For example, if your goal is to “be fit” identify exactly what fitness means to you – enough to run a 5k, or enough to run an ultramarathon? If your goal is to “succeed in business” then what does that mean – what does success mean to you? To be rich – what’s the dollar figure?

2. Research what it takes to achieve the goal. Again, whether it’s a personal or business goal, talk to people who have achieved what you want and pick their brains. Most people love to help out like this – they’ll be flattered that they are seen as a success! Read books, browse the Internet, join trade organisations, research an industry, find out what sort of gear or resources you’ll need, etc. so that when it’s “go” time you’ll know what to expect. Then you can start working these tasks into your schedule. Begin with at the very least, 15 minutes every day, no matter what, and add to it as you can.

3. Be in love with your goal. If you’re not in love with it, you’re not going to commit to it. You’ll be more tempted to quit when things don’t go your way. If you’re interested in starting your own business, are you aware that you will have longer hours and less freedom than you do now as an employee? Are you aware that physical fitness goals will require additional time in a sport and possibly dietary changes? A huge component of being in love with the goal is being in love with the process. That makes success inevitable, even if you don’t reach your objective. This involves a choice to be excited about the adventure of this goal. The everyday work needs to be perceived as fun and fascinating – something that you really want to do, at the expense of TV and other time-suckers. Your mindset and self-talk have to be based on LOVING what you’re doing. NOT: “Uhg, I have to go run a 10k today and it’s raining” but “Yeah, it’s raining but that will make today’s 10k a lot more refreshing!” NOT: “I wish I could spend more time with my kids but these long hours are killing me!” but “I’m putting in long hours now but I’m also delegating some more tasks so I can be with the kids more.”

Now that the prep work is done…

4. Commit to 15 minutes a day on your goal, come hell or high water. If you establish this as a habit (after about a month or so of DAILY commitment) even on days when you insist you have no time or you’re too exhausted, you’ll start seeing results and you’ll get caught up in the momentum. Then you can start adding a few minutes here and there. And believe me, 15 minutes of focused effort goes a very long way. Very soon you’ll find yourself prioritising your time to make room for your goal.

 

Inspired by: http://smartgoalsguide.com/

Practice Makes Permanent

“Ask the great athlete or the concert pianist or the successful actor if they arrived at the place where they need no further practice. They will tell you that the higher you climb in proficiency and public acceptance, the greater the need for practice.” ~ Eric Butterworth

You’ve probably heard about the 10,000 hour rule: that honing your skills for 10,000 hours makes you a “master.” That’s only partly true.

If you learn a skill the wrong way, practicing it the wrong way will only make it more firmly entrenched and that much harder to correct later. Repeated practice of an error is not going to make you a master.

Florida State University psychologist Anders Ericsson said, “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal.”

The secret, then, is “deliberate practice” – with full concentration on improving a technique. You can practice with full concentration for three hours and “get it” – or for 10,000 hours of la-di-da practice and still not master anything.

Neuroplasticity requires concentration. If you’re going to ‘hard-wire’ something into your brain, you have to concentrate. If you’re learning a musical instrument and you’re practicing while watching TV, you’re not going to build those new neural pathways.

So no matter what you’re trying to master, do it only when you can give it your undivided focus. Don’t daydream. Don’t multi-task. Don’t do it when you have a million worries racing around in your head.

And, don’t settle for “good enough” if you really want to master something. Typically, about 50 hours of practice will get you “good-enough” results. Capable, but not exceptional. If you want to excel, approach every practice as having room for improvement and focus on the improvement. Even if it’s a 1% improvement, it’s an improvement. Don’t give in to the brain’s urge to automate a behavior (it loves to make everything a habit).

By focusing intently on improvement, not repetition, you can master anything, and it won’t take you 10,000 hours.

 

Inspired by Maynard Brusman’s blog on: http://www.workingresourcesblog.com/