How to Decide What to Focus On During your 12-Week Year

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

By Katie Corbett

Focus is key to getting things done. I have found that it is easiest to focus for a longer period of time when I take action on only one thing. I used to try something for three or four weeks, not see the results I wanted, and give up. I would think of another thing I wanted to try, try that for a few weeks, and the cycle would start all over again. No longer!

In “The 12-Week Year,” Brian Moran encourages readers to pick an area of life where they desire to see improvement. Here is a question list to help you pick that area of your life to focus on:

• What do I want more or less of in my life right now?
• Is there a practice or habit I want to incorporate?
• Is there a habit I used to do that I would like to take back up?
• What specific, measureable results do I hope to get from my 12-Week Year efforts?
• Why do I want to improve in this area of my life?
• What is one action that, if done each day, will propel me closer to my goal?
• Does this action depend entirely on me, or does it require the help of others?
• Is it realistic, given my life situation and circumstances, to take this action each day consistently?

Jot down your answers to these questions and decide what you will do next. Making a concrete decision will increase your success rate, give you long-term results over an extended period of time, and provide a sense of accomplishment each day.

I hope that focusing on one thing pushes you further than you thought possible. I would love to hear what you plan to do. Let me know in the comments.

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How Productive can you Be?

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

By Katie Corbett

If someone told me that a book could help me be more productive, get healthier in mind and body, and provide more overall satisfaction in life, I probably would have laughed. I’m glad no one told me that, because it has been so enjoyable going on the journey and discovering it for myself.

I started reading, “The 12-Week Year”, by Brian Moran, and it has changed my life. Here’s the basic principle behind the book:

Step 1: Decide what is important to work on in your life right now. It could be eating healthier, reading more, building a business, or focusing on your relationships.
Step 2: Pick the most impactful action step you can take to move yourself forward in that area of life.
Step 3: Do that action step every day for 12 weeks.
Step 4: Track your progress each day.
Step 5: At the end, take another week – called The 13th Week – to celebrate success and evaluate the impact on your life.

That’s it. I’m winding down my third 12-Week Year and the results of taking consistent action are incredible.

I started my first 12-Week Year in August of 2019. The most important goal in my life was to decrease stress. I decided I also wanted to become more well-rounded as a person, so doing one hobby each day seemed like a great way to accomplish both objectives. I did hobbies alone and with friends. I tried things I had never done before, as well as hobbies I used to enjoy, but had abandoned over time. It was so fun to give my brain a break and relax.

For my second 12-Week Year, I decided to focus on my reproductive health. I did an acupressure routine each day to get my hormones in better balance. It worked wonders.

The 12-Week Year I’m currently finishing involves my commitment to brush my teeth twice a day and floss once a day. I had fallen out of the practice for the past few years, only brushing once a day and flossing when I felt I really needed to. It feels great to get back on the band wagon.

I plan to continue brushing and flossing once this 12-Week Year has ended, I still do my acupressure each day, and I participate in a hobby occasionally. I’m not sure yet what I will do for my fourth 12-Week Year, but I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book and give this productivity booster a try. I hope you are surprised and encouraged by the fruits of your efforts.

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Working Remotely: Secrets for Productivity and Success

Katie Corbett headshot

By Katie Corbett

Working remotely—usually from home—can seem like a glorious adventure. No commute, plenty of alone time, and the ability to work in your pajamas if you so choose. Thing is, if you’re not careful, it can be easy to get distracted by the dishes you need to do or the laundry piling up. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful to keep in mind whenever I work from home.

Listen and enjoy!

Creative Procrastination: Eat the Worst Frog First

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

Everything that needs to get done will get done. That, and “There is a right time for everything” are two phrases that used to stump me. If I’m not working constantly and trying to do everything, how will things get done?

In his book, “Eat that Frog,” Brian Tracy says to do the worst, toughest things first and ignore the little things. Eventually, even the little things will become truly urgent, and they will get done. That idea has applied to my blogging more than I might like to admit. Here’s how.

Choosing the Next Book: I like to buy my books in batches. (I read digital copies and then buy physical copies once I decide to blog about the book, so I have it for my blog photo.) Book selection occurs on a quarterly basis, as I reflect on the books that have made a difference in my life and career. I pick the top three and purchase those.
Selecting the Post Topics: Early in the month in which I plan to write about a specific book, I go through it and pick out the tips and ideas I have applied to my life and found success doing. I create files for each post and put the title, my name and an idea of what I would like to cover in the post. That way, I can start writing when it’s time to write.
The Actual Writing: Mid-to-late month, I sit down and start writing. Nothing need be perfect or final. As long as I get the ideas out, that’s the goal.
The Recording: I typically do my recording after this initial post writing is complete. All I do is think of a topic, write a list of things I’d like to talk about and press record.
Editing and Uploading: Sometime the week the first of these newly-written posts will publish, I do final edits, upload, and email my virtual assistant to get the photos up.

This creative procrastination idea applies throughout the entire process. Instead of worrying about all the little things that I want and need to do for my blog, I focus on the one important task of the day. One day, that might be selecting and ordering new books, another day it might be writing, and another day I edit and upload. If it seems overly simple, that’s probably because it is. And sometimes, even if you might not feel like doing the tough thing, circumstances will force you to do it. This blog post, for example, exists because my phone, laptop and portable book player all have dead batteries and are recharging at the moment. I didn’t want to sit near the outlet, so I’m writing this post using my braille display, even though I’d honestly rather do it tomorrow. It turns out that doing the hard things involves sitting down and, you know, doing the hard things. They’re called hard things for a reason, but it’s usually worth it to get them done. And, as with what happened to me today, sometimes life gives you no other option.

At the start of each day, I ask myself: What do I need to get done today for the day to be considered a success? I hope you start asking yourself that, too. It might be to apply for some jobs, revise your résumé, or do something kind for yourself or a loved-one. Whatever it is, I’d love to hear about the success you end up having, so leave a comment so I can cheer you on.

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Keeping the Mind Fresh: The Importance of Taking Breaks

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

I recently rearranged my schedule from working five hours per day, five days per week, and am now working three eight-hour days per week. Since I’m working these longer days, I find it necessary to take small breaks to get everything done. What? Doing nothing helps me do more, you ask? The idea might seem counterintuitive at first, so stick with me.

Author Laura Vanderkam, in her book, “What the most Successful People do at Work,” explains that taking occasional breaks is a great way to stay fresh and keep your mind sharp. When I take a break, I do one of the following:

• Turn my chair away from my computer.
• Go say hi to a coworker.
• Grab a snack.
• Send a text message to a friend.
• Check social media for five minutes.
• Walk around the office.
• Step outside for a breath of fresh air.
• Make a cup of tea.
• Think about a word puzzle.
• Read a chapter of a fiction book.

My breaks usually don’t last longer than five or ten minutes, and they work wonders for my productivity. Writing is intense brain-work, so giving my brain time and space to think about other things ensures that I don’t forget an item on my editing checklist or miss an important idea or quote to include in an article.
Next time your brain feels stuck, try one of these break ideas. Even if you have a lot to get done, taking breaks will give you the mental space to do everything efficiently and effectively. Got an effective break idea to share? Feel free to post it in the comments.

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Make Success Possible: The Art of Prioritizing

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

No matter who we are, where we work or whatever else is going on in our lives, we are all only given 24 hours each day. Learning how to determine what is important can help us spend those hours well. It’s all about priorities.

In “What the most Successful People do at Work”, time management expert Laura Vanderkam suggests spending time each day to plan what you will get done. I have found this helpful when I get to the office; here’s how.

Tip 1: I don’t check email until I have set my to-do list for the day. That way, the priorities of others don’t interfere with what I need to get done.
Tip 2: I delegate tasks that I need finished, but don’t have the time or capability to do myself. I recently needed some research done in an archive not accessible to my screen-reading software, so a volunteer was enlisted to look up the information for me. I could spend my time working on other projects, and the research got done.
Tip 3: At the end of each day, I reflect on what I have accomplished and make sure it is in line with my work priorities for that day. This gives me an opportunity to check and be sure I’m on the right course, and correct if needed.

Creating priorities in your work can be as simple as sitting down and making a list of what needs to get done, then ranking the items by importance. Try it out and see how prioritizing your day could make a difference in your career.

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How to Keep Improving at Your Craft, Five Tips

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

Whether you are a writer or a painter, a secretary or a realtor, it is a good idea to set aside time to get better at what you do. I had to learn that lesson recently when my boss suggested I get some writing coaching. It was hard to let go of my ego at first, I will admit. In the end, though, it turned out to be a great experience to learn from someone who has been writing professionally for 20 years.

In her book, “What the most Successful People do at Work,” Laura Vanderkam says it is always a benefit to yourself and your company to improve at your work. Here are some ways I am keeping the cycle of improvement going in my own job:

1. My writing coach recommended a book that helped her improve her writing, and I plan to go through one chapter a month to finish it in a year.
2. I have started networking with others in my field to ask their advice about aspects of writing on which I want to improve.
3. Each week, I have check-in conversations with my boss about my writing and how I can grow.
4. I recently joined a group of local businesswomen and am learning from them.
5. I signed up to attend two professional development conferences in the coming months, which will be learning and networking opportunities for me.

Even if you aren’t a writer, try one of these ideas if any of them resonated with you. Countless ways exist to improve in a career. If you have found one that works for you, leave it in the comments. I would love to try it. As you may have noticed, I never recommend anything without trying it for myself first.

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Why Sunday Nights are the Most Important Hours of the Weekend

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett
For some, Sunday night might be a sad time. You might be anxious or stressed about all you have to do when it is time for work on Monday morning. You may feel like you didn’t get everything done that you had hoped to accomplish over the weekend.

In her book, “What the Most Successful People do on the Weekend,” time management expert Laura Vanderkam points out that Sunday night is an important time of the weekend that doesn’t need to be squandered worrying about Monday morning. Here are some ways I have tried to preserve the specialness of Sunday nights.

1. I plan to do something fun. Whether it’s a phone call with a friend, a movie night with my husband, or reading a book or solving a crossword, I take time doing something I enjoy to keep my mind off the impending workweek.
2. I do something with others. A surefire way to ensure I don’t waste time on Sunday nights is to plan something fun to do with other people. It could be a choir practice, volunteering, or going for a Sunday night hike with a friend. Committing to a specific time gives me a reason to be actively engaged instead of worrying that I should be doing something meaningful with the final weekend hours.
3. I plan for the week ahead. The night before each weekday, I make a list of everything I want to accomplish the next day. Sunday nights, I write that first to-do list of the workweek.
4. I plan goals for the future. Sunday night is a great time to make lists of goals and dreams for the future. I find that I have enough distance from my job to think of recreational goals in addition to career goals.
5. I determine my weekly goals. I like to plan three goals each in the areas of career, relationships and self for the week. These nine goals are easiest to think about in the final hours of Sunday, and I can check my progress and make sure I have completed last week’s goals then, too.

However you decide to spend your Sunday nights, I hope you are able to make the most of your weekend. We only have 52 weekends per year. It is important to enjoy every bit of them.

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My Most Effective Workday Schedule, and How You can Find Yours, too

Katie Corbett holds the book "When"

By Katie Corbett

As I have been contemplating the shift from working a set schedule at an office to doing my own work from home, I wondered how I would adapt and stick to a working schedule that would give me the freedom and flexibility I want yet assist in the growth of a business. I decided to turn to science for the answers.

In “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” Daniel H. Pink provides much information to aid in the development of an ideal plan. My ideal work schedule, according to science is:

7:00 – 9:00 a.m.: Breakfast, light reading, meditation/prayer
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Writing, strategic planning, strategic sales calls
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: Lunch
1:00 – 2:00 p.m.: Light editing, admin work, updating databases
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.: Nap/reading for pleasure
4:00 p.m. onward: Dinner, networking, hobbies, creative pursuits

It is my hope to one day adopt this schedule. It mirrors pretty closely the schedule I’m working now, since I work from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. I’ve discovered I like that work schedule and it works for me. When I’m working totally for myself, however, I’ll probably pull a Tim Ferriss and take Mondays and/or Fridays off—maybe both. (Tim talks about it in “The 4-Hour Workweek”, if you want to look it up.) Because, after all, what’s the fun of working for yourself without the flexibility?

I didn’t go into the science of things because I want you to read the book for yourself and figure out your own ideal schedule. Give “When” a thorough read and use it to find your ideal schedule. There are different types of people in the world, and everyone has a different body chemistry and circadian rhythm. What works for me might not work for you—especially if you’re a night owl. Remember to experiment and have fun with the experience.

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Defying the Norm: Make Friday your Most Productive Day

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

By Katie Corbett

Friday. It’s the workday that signals, for many, the start of the weekend, a day to celebrate, a time to let loose and relax. It comes as no surprise, then, that it is the least productive day of the workweek. I wanted to change that for myself, since, for me anyway, there’s no worse feeling than getting done with work and realizing I didn’t accomplish anything. Goal-oriented much? I know, but bear with me.

In Laura Vanderkam’s book, “I Know How She Does It,” there are several tips suggested to improve productivity. I have taken her suggestions and modified them so they fit my productivity needs. These ideas helped me ensure Friday was a day of the week when I definitely got work done.

1. Set Deadlines for Friday: In my work as a writer, I need to submit articles, content plans and fundraising copy to my manager. Setting my deadlines for Fridays gives me time to get everything done on a day when I’m less likely to get interrupted or have meetings.
2. Plan Weekly Goals on Friday: Laura Vanderkam stresses that to move forward, it is a good idea to plan goals in three areas of life—career, relationships, and self. When I worked at a company with fewer deadlines or where I didn’t have as much control over my schedule, I found it helpful to plan my personal, career and relationship goals on Friday afternoons. This meant I was spending otherwise unproductive time moving my life forward.
3. Work Fewer Hours Each Week: I currently work 25 hours per week at my writing job. That’s typically 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. This means I have 25 hours to get everything done, and that I have to use all of that time efficiently and effectively. Working this schedule requires me to focus and accomplish tasks every day, even on Fridays.
4. Start and Stop Work at The Same Time Each Day: While there are occasionally days when I need to stay late, I typically start work at 9 a.m. and am done by 2:30 p.m. each workday. This spreads out the work among all 5 workdays of each week. It also means I don’t have the luxury of staying late to get last-minute projects finished
5. Be Intentional About How to Spend Time and Energy: In the mornings, I’m much fresher and my mind is ready for intense work, such as writing articles. In the afternoons, I’m in a more relaxed mental state, so making edits to documents, conducting interviews, and meeting with others to brainstorm for upcoming projects is a better use of my time. Following this pattern every day of the workweek makes Fridays just as productive as the earlier weekdays.

In what area can you defy the norm? How can you incorporate better use of your time and energy? If you have a trick that is working for you, feel free to leave a comment so others can benefit.

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