Looking for a Productivity Boost? Get in Touch with Your Future Self

By Katie Corbett

 

Procrastination. It is something each of us has considered at some point in our lives. It can be especially tempting if we are feeling anxiety or discomfort about a task ahead.

 

I used to procrastinate a lot more, until I read “The Productivity Project,” by Chris Bailey. The book suggests thinking about how your future self would feel if you failed to act now.

 

I once had a lot to get done to prepare for a meeting. I wanted to take the morning to relax and prepare that afternoon. I pictured my future self heading to the meeting the next day. If I didn’t get my preparations done that afternoon, I knew I would need to rush the next morning to finish all that I had to do. I pictured my future self scrambling to prep, and thought about how stressed I would be if I didn’t act now. I then considered how relaxed I would be if I did all that I needed to do in the present instead of wasting time procrastinating. As a result, I ended up working on the tasks I needed to complete before the afternoon rolled around, and they didn’t take me as long to do as I had thought. I had the chance to relax later that day, and I went into my meeting the next morning feeling prepared and confident.

 

Whenever I feel like procrastinating, I think about what I would be doing in the future, and how I’ll feel in the future if I don’t do something that I could handle in the present. Here are some questions to help with motivation as you picture your future self.

 

  • What will your future self need to do if you fail to act now?
  • How do you suspect your future self will feel about that?
  • Do you think your future self will wish that you had gotten the tasks done sooner?
  • How will your future self feel if you do everything you need to do now?
  • Will your future self be proud of your present self if you act now?

 

These are just a few questions to get you thinking. I hope they help you accomplish all that you wish to do without giving into the temptation to procrastinate.

 

I’d love to hear what you are working on and what projects you want to start soon. Have you found a hack to beat procrastination? Feel free to drop me a comment.

 

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Identify Your Highest Impact Tasks and Do Them First

By Katie Corbett

 

With all there is to do in a day, it can be easy to spend time doing little things that get you nowhere. As I was learning about productivity, I learned that weeding these small tasks out and focusing on those that make the largest impact is the quickest route to success.

 

In the book “The Productivity Project”, by Chris Bailey, focusing on your highest impact activities is of utmost importance. As I was starting my writing business, I thought about what my unique talents were and how I could make the most of my time.

 

As I was preparing writing projects, I realized that I disliked editing. I found it tedious and it took me a long time. On the other hand, I loved networking, interviewing, and putting the initial story together. I decided right then and there that editing was not a high-yield task for me.

 

I reached out to a few friends in my network in hopes of finding a copyeditor. The one I found is worth her weight in gold. She is truly gifted at editing and proofreading. My pieces are so much more cohesive once she has worked on them. And I have all the time I need to interview, prospect, and write.

 

What low-impact tasks are you wasting time on? How can you stop wasting time and start doing what you are good at? Who do you need in your life to make that happen?

 

Are you committed to letting go of tasks that don’t serve you and focusing on the ones that give you the most value? I would love to hear how it goes, so leave me a comment.

 

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Find Your Renaissance Soul Focal Points

Katie Corbett holds the book "The Renaissance Soul"

By Katie Corbett

 

If you, like me, have discovered you are a person who enjoys many pursuits, you might wonder how to move forward. You may worry about getting bored, about not finishing what you started, about being unsure where to go and what to do next.

 

In “The Renaissance Soul,” by Margaret Lobenstine, it is suggested to determine the areas of life that are most important to you. The book calls these Renaissance Soul Focal Points. I have found it helpful to identify about four. Here are some questions I used to identify mine:

 

  1. How do you want to spend your time?
  2. What do you enjoy doing that you could do for hours if not interrupted?
  3. What do you want to accomplish in your life?
  4. What would you be willing to prioritize over other things?
  5. What do you want to learn?
  6. Within the next three months, what do you want to accomplish?
  7. In what areas of life do you put in effort without trying?
  8. What have you been meaning to do that you have kept putting off till “someday”?
  9. What do you wish you could spend more time doing?
  10. In what areas of life do you want to improve?

 

By answering these questions, I was able to figure out that my Focal Points are: my marriage, my business, reading fiction and learning new things. I’ve been spending quality time with my husband, I’ve recently launched a referral program for my freelance writing business, I read all seven Harry Potter books and I’m taking a course to learn how to get more proficient at mental math.

 

Answer these questions for yourself to determine the areas of life that are important to you. The activities you do will change from week to week and from month to month, though your Focal Points will likely stay the same for at least a few years.

 

Is there a question you found particularly helpful? Let me know in the comments.

 

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How to Track your 12-Week Year Progress

Katie Corbett holds the book "The 12-Week Year"

By Katie Corbett

Tracking progress is important. If you don’t, it can be easy to get caught up with all the little items that need to get done and you could lose sight of the progress you made on accomplishing your big goals.

Tracking is an important aspect of “The 12-Week Year,” by Brian Moran. He says that you can consider your week a success if you complete 85% of the important tasks on your list.

I track my 12-Week Year projects at the end of each day by writing in a small notebook set aside specifically for that purpose. The way you track could look quite different. Here are some ideas:

• You could get a calendar and put stars on the days you accomplished your 12-Week Year goals.
• You could record notes about your progress on a spreadsheet.
• If you want a portable tracking option, you could make notes on your phone.
• You could create a paper chain with links for each day or week, and tear off a link right after you did your important actions for that day or week.
• You could set aside a certain amount of money, say, a dollar, each time you complete an important task on your list, then reward yourself with something special once the 12-Week Year is over. (If you set aside a dollar each day, you would have $84 at the end.)

No matter how you track, it is critical to remember to do it consistently. After all, if you skip a day or forget to mark your progress, you will have little perspective about whether you are truly meeting your goals.

Try one of these tracking ideas, or, if you’re feeling creative, come up with your own. If you find something that works for you, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave me a comment.

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Have Physical Reminders of Your Goals so you Don’t Get Diverted

Banner Photo

By Katie Corbett

Often, people have a tendency to focus on what is right in front of us. We get distracted when enthusiasm wanes, when a project ceases to be interesting, or when something else comes along that seems more exciting. Having visual or physical reminders of our goals can help spur us on during emotionally dry times.

I first read about this idea in “Girl, Wash Your Face”. Author Rachel Hollis says she puts pictures on her closet door to remind her to keep striving for those big goals. I love the idea of having a collage or vision board. As a person who is blind, though, I knew pictures would not be an effective way to motivate myself. Here’s what I did instead.

• For motivation to keep working on my garment project, I wear my prototype every day when I’m in my office.
• To remember to complete one hobby each day, I have a notebook where I write my hobbies down as I do them, with a line for each day of the week.
• To keep prayer in mind, I put my rosary on a shelf right next to my cell phone, so I’ll feel it when I reach for my phone each morning.
• I have a notebook where I record everything I need to get done for the day; in addition to containing my list, it serves as a physical reminder of all I need to do.
• If I have to bring something unusual to work, such as a snack for a work pot luck, I put that item with the things I take with me each day.

Whether you use physical motivators like I do or create a collage of inspirational pictures cut from magazines, keeping reminders of your goals front and center will propel you to achieve them. What goals are you going after right now? What could you keep visible for motivation? Let me know in the comments.

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Moving Forward: Planning Goals Each Week

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

When going through life day-to-day, it can be hard to see the ways in which we have moved forward. Progression, however, is a criterion necessary for satisfaction. Otherwise, how will we know we are heading in the direction we want to go? How will we be confident we are taking solid, concrete steps to get us there?

I first found a strategy for addressing forward momentum in Laura Vanderkam’s Ted Talk, and she mentions it in her book “I Know How She Does It,” as well. She says to develop 3 goals in each of 3 areas of life: career, relationships and self. Do this at around the same time each week. Laura suggests Friday afternoons, since Friday afternoons are the least productive time of the workweek. I have found this strategy very helpful in moving forward in these important areas of life, though I found that planning on Sunday afternoon or evening works better for me, since sometimes I set goals for events or items I have planned for that weekend. I write my goals on my phone, since I always have it with me. This makes it easier to review my goals throughout the week.

One of the many benefits I have gained from this practice is pushing myself to do things that scare me, but are necessary to making progress. As an example, I needed to order materials for the product I’m developing. This involved calling a fabric retailer in Chicago, which seemed intimidating at the time. Because I had it on my goals list, however, I talked myself into making the call.

Now, I’m not perfect, and there are weeks I don’t accomplish everything on my list. If it comes time to set next week’s goals and I realize there is a goal I did not achieve, I ask myself if the goal is still something I want to accomplish and, if so, add it to the list for the next week.

Another thing I will mention is the importance of setting goals that don’t depend on the actions of others to accomplish. Instead of writing “Have conversation with my sister,” I would write, “Send a text message to my sister.” That way, all I have to do is send the text. If she doesn’t reply, or says she is too busy for a chat, I will still have met my goal because I reached out to her.

Just as an example, my goals for this week are:

• Career: (1) Meet with friend to brainstorm ways to reach employees of a certain company who might benefit from career coaching; (2) Take the minutes for the staff meeting at work; (3) Contact paralegal for product development paperwork status.
• Relationships: (1) Praise hubby for 10 things he does well; (2) Go to networking event on Thursday; (3) Go to girls’ night on Tuesday.
• Self: (1) Read at least 1 fiction book; (2) Give dog her medicine Saturday night; (3) Call for information about conference discount.

What goals will you set this week for your career, relationships and self? When will you write them down? Where will you write them down? Do they rely on the actions of others to achieve, or is their accomplishment solely dependent on you? Have fun with this activity. If done consistently, you will start to see yourself intentionally making progress toward living the life you want.

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Developing a Goal Plan

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 4-Hour Workweek"

By Katie Corbett

I am a goal-oriented person. I get satisfaction from crossing items off to-do lists and being able to tangibly see myself moving forward. I realize that not everyone feels this way, and I even recognize the appeal of being a bit more spontaneous. In one of my favorite business books, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Tim Ferriss, I think I’ve found a happy medium. It’s a technique that involves some planning so that you’ll continue moving toward those things you want to do in life, but is not so rigid that you’ll need to cross items off a list each day, or even each week. I’ve done this twice, and I’m excited to share the concept with you.

First, take a piece of paper and divide it into three sections. Label each section, “To Have,” “To Be,” and “To Do,” respectively. Write 3-5 things in each category. Some examples from my own list:

To Have: A work-at-home job, a product prototype, an updated Linked-In profile, Trim and Burn weight-loss supplements, and a braille display; To Be: A remote worker, thinner, an interviewer, a product designer, and a hand model; To Do: Learn Filipino, finish latch-hooking project, join a young adult book club, finish editing the novel I wrote, and work with new coaching clients.

After that, pick the four most important items you’d like to achieve in the next three or six months. (I have always chosen three months as my target, because the immediacy of the closer deadline spurs me into action.) Write these down. Be sure and write the date of the specific day you would like to attain these goals. When you do this with goals from the “To Be” category, phrase these items as specific goal statements. For example, I wrote the desire to be thinner as a goal to fit into a specific pair of dress pants. This will help you measure something that might seem intangible.

After that, determine the financial cost of accomplishing each of these goals. Add the costs up and multiply by 1.3. This extra 0.3 will help account for emergencies, or if something turns out to be a little more expensive than you had previously anticipated. Divide the total by the number of months you set for yourself—so either 3 or 6—and there you have the cost per month. This should hopefully make you feel like the goals are easier to save for and you can justify putting money toward them since you’re planning ahead. Finally, I like to write down the first step I need to take in order to accomplish each of the goals. Mark the projected completion date on your calendar or put it in your phone so you can track your progress once the day comes.

Tim definitely lays this process out more concretely in his book, so I highly recommend picking up a copy. And even if you don’t get his book for this success secret, he has a million other nuggets of wisdom in there which are definitely worth getting a copy for yourself. It’s one of the most thought-provoking career and lifestyle design books I’ve ever read. I was so inspired after reading it for the first time that I went skydiving—something I had always wanted to do. Sure, I was unemployed, probably considered broke, and didn’t have a clear direction for my life, but I found a friend, took advantage of a Groupon and made time during the day on a random Friday in April to jump out of an airplane at 1300 feet. I lost one of my shoes on the way down, which still makes for a funny story. So take a chance and read the book—or at least decide what things you want in life by the next 3-6 months. Who knows what could happen?

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