Ah–being my own boss! Finally, I never have to sit through through another performance review. Never again do I have to justify why some of the commitments I made at the beginning of the year, fell short–12 months later. I am learning though, that all this freedom has its liabilities.

Tory Johnson, CEO of Women to Hire and creator of WaggleForce and Michelle Pippin, www.womenwhowow, in their recent teleclass, challenged the participants to be more accountable. They can’t be talking to me! Haven’t my friends commented how hard I work and remark what a determined and driven person I am? (Note: I dismiss all suspicions that I’m a Type A personality, however.) Don’t I always keep To Do lists? And I’ll even confess to putting completed tasks on my lists–just to have the pleasure of crossing them off.

But they did get me thinking about how I spend my time…

To Do or not To Do

I decided to look back at exactly what I accomplished that week. This couldn’t be right! “Is that all there is?” Where did the rest of the time go? Wasn’t I always busy? I couldn’t remember any time I was sitting on the couch eating bon-bons, just watching TV. (Ok, except for that one nap I took!) Wasn’t my lap top my favorite fashion accessory? Hmmm?

Maybe it was a bad week. I’ll try harder next week. Well, I did see some improvement, but it just didn’t add up. I decided to fine-tune what I was doing.

Sunday Evening Business Meeting

Michelle shared that she has a weekly meeting with herself to plan out her week. I’ve tried that before (at least once a few years ago), perhaps it was time to give it a ‘go again.

Of course, I created a form (some of my co-workers used to call me “Forms Falter” in my HR days). It was nothing fancy, but it divided up the day into 5 blocks; for example, early morning, late morning, early afternoon, etc. I plotted out what I had to get done that week and put that task in a box.

Here’s some of what I discovered:

Deadlines

Monday was the last session in my recent tele-class. I had 6 people counting on me to have my act together and materials ready. Guess what? I did what I had to do—research, organizing, creating all the handouts. I had to get it done and I did.

The same thing happened with my in-person group coaching session in my community. Despite having other things to do in my personal life, somehow I managed to get it done and on time.

And why is it that I find the time to get the house cleaned when company is coming for dinner? What is it about deadlines that truly motivates me?

The roar of the urgent

I found I was pretty darn good at getting those short term tasks done. Schedule a meeting? No problem. Prepare a presentation for a network function? Done. Why then, did I struggle with the other things on my To Do list? I love crossing things off my bloody To Do list—but how do I make that same kind of progress with longer-term, more complex goals? What do I need to do so I focus on what’s important versus what’s easy and quick?

Commitment

Writing articles for Internet directories is a good way to “get my name out there.” My goal for the past year has been to write one article a week. It always seemed like a reasonable target.

As much as I love to write, I never found enough time to write that article. “I’ll make it up next week.” No one would ever know. “I’ll write two next week.” Well, that never happened–I have never written 4 articles in a month. So, do I think this goal is important enough to do? Do I struggle with it because it’s difficult to determine whether it’s really worth my time? Is four-a month a reasonable target, given what else I want/need to do? Is this a true goal or just a wish?

Promises, promises

(Do you hear Dionne Warwick singing that old song?) Why is it that I would never disappoint a friend on a previous commitment but I don’t hesitate to put off the promises I made to myself. Why don’t I honor myself as much as I do others? Aren’t my goals just as important?

Whether you are struggling with finishing a particular project in what I call “traditional employment,” a soloprenerer who needs to create and implement their marketing plan or you’re retired, but have something that you’ve always wanted to do—here are some of the reminders from Tory and Michelle and a few suggestions from me:

  • What are you truly committed to doing? Forget “trying.” What is the most important thing you could be doing this week?
  • Are you putting your needs and wants on your list? What do you need to do to bring more joy and the feel of satisfaction to yourself?
  • It’s been proven that dieters have more success if they plan their week and their day. That’s how you take back control of your time. Visualize success—you’ll be a lot more focused.
  • Ask yourself, “Was today better than yesterday?” Then, “What will I do today better than yesterday?”
  • Enlist the aid of an accountability partner. Sure you could achieve your goals by yourself–but will you? The fact is that most of us do better when we commit to reporting our progress to a person or a group.
    • That’s why Weight Watcher groups work and is an important benefit of career clubs when you’re looking for work. Perhaps it is a friend, a co-worker, a personal trainer or a Life Coach (my favorite); but it’s helpful to have someone who understands what you’re going through rooting for you and holding you to what you have promised.

What I’ve shared here isn’t new. And although all this seems so simple, we know it’s not easy. The Japanese have a term, “Kaisen” which means constant improvement. Don’t beat yourself up—keep reaching. There’s always tomorrow or better yet, today. Celebrate the fact that you are gaining progress over the long term.

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