Looking Back to Move Forward by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As we reach year end, it’s natural to pause for reflection on the past year and to anticipate the year to come. One of the best waysindex to ensure productivity and mindfulness in the coming year is to combine those two efforts into an exercise that helps you use the past to shape the future.

As the year ends, take the time to reflect on all the things that went well in your business, and to consider what you can do to replicate those things in the coming year. Set goals to go even further than last year, if appropriate, using the data from this past year to help you list the tasks you must carry out to reach your new goals.

Take a look, as well, at the things that didn’t go as planned in your business. Were the goals the wrong goals to begin with? If the goals were appropriate, list the things that got in your way and kept you from reaching the goals. Adjust for the coming year and mark your calendar to check in on your progress and make adjustments quarterly.

Reflect on the things that brought you happiness this past year. Whether it was a great vacation, extra time spent with family, or rewarding volunteer work, be sure you’ve noted its impact on your life. Then, make sure to include more of it in your plans for 2018.

Finally, make note of the things from 2017 that caused you unhappiness. Determine how you can rid your life of these things, or at least minimize their impact on your happiness. If you have toxic relationships, vow to fix these or leave these.

Once you’ve reflected on all these areas of your life, be sure to take into account new things you want to bring into your life in 2018. Have you neglected to pursue interests or relationships because of work or other commitments? If so, make a plan to add these activities to your life.

Every year brings a new opportunity to improve our lives. Reviewing the past year and using its events and results, both good and bad, can help us to see the areas where we are excelling, as well as those where we need to make adjustments. As you celebrate this holiday season, don’t forget to look back and look forward.

 

“Focus” by Cindy Stradling

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Over a decade ago I read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and my big takeaway from reading this book was the value of focus.  In fact, Robert shared an acronym for the word focus that I continue to use today:focus

F – follow

O – one 

C – course 

U – until

S – successful

 

When I first started my business I had my hand in many different areas and projects. What I realized very quickly is that my efforts were diluted everywhere.  Once I learned Robert’s acronym I took a long hard look at my business.  After exploring the various areas I created a new plan that in my opinion, was much clearer, easier to measure and focused on a specific outcome.  As I enter into my ninth year in business I can see now this strategy worked very well for me.

 

This is not to say I don’t look at new ways of doing things or new opportunities.  I do this regularly as the market is constantly changing and we need to stay abreast of what is happening in our industry.  Where I use focus is when I am working on a project or simply doing my day to day business activities.  As an example if I am making outbound calls, my focus is strictly on doing this, not answering inbound calls or emails intermittently.  

 

I find that the results I achieve are so much higher when I take this approach and the bonus to this is that I feel very good about setting an objective and sticking to the plan to make it happen.  This doesn’t just apply to my business life it also applies in my personal life as well.  When I am with family or friends, I am with them, not texting or answering other calls.  I see people in restaurants all the time sitting across from each other on their cell phones texting.  Personally, I think people miss the human connection when they do this (this is my opinion – maybe it’s my Boomer mentality).

Prioritize and make time for the things that are important to you.

We can (and do) make time for the things that are most important to you. Often these things inspire us and we don’t see them as something you “have” to do versus what you “want” to do.  Even when this work presents us with challenges, it can also produce the highest level of satisfaction.  This is the incredible thing about doing what you were meant to do is that is often doesn’t feel like work at all.  I know for me my work provides me with a great sense of contribution and connection to people.  This makes my commitment to stay focused on my goals so much easier.

What does it really take to move from knowing what to do and actually doing it?

We all know what we need to do to be successful yet we often don’t do the very thing that will have us be successful.  What is the secret? Focus!   We can read books, attend seminars and listen to webinars to learn techniques to make improvements in our personal and professional lives.  It is not until we commit and focus on the actions we need to take that we can yield the results.  If you research anyone who has accomplished great things in their lives you will learn that at the base of everything they did was a dedicated focus in their area of interest.

We have all experienced distractions and interruptions at home and work.  Once interrupted, we have a hard time getting re-focused again. I have listed below some startling statistics and the impact of interruptions to focus:

  1. The average employee spends 28% of their time dealing with unnecessary interruptions followed by “recovery time” to get back on track. (2009, Basex)
  2. The time spent per day being interrupted and trying to refocus is 2.1 hours. (2009, Basex)
  3. Physically co-located workers spend longer chunks of time engaged in tasks for which they are not accountable. (University of California-Irvine)
  4. The average manager is interrupted every 8 minutes. (Study conducted by Priority Management)
  5. The Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London suggests that your IQ falls 10 points when you’re fielding constant emails, text messages and calls.  This is the same loss you’d experience if you had missed an entire night’s sleep.  (Yoga Journal, p. 22, 12/2005).
  6. The cost of managing interruptions at work costs the US economy $588 billion per year. (2009, Basex)