How to Stay on Track in the New Year

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This is the time of year when we all set out with good intentions, make long lists of things we want to accomplish, and have new hope that the clean slate of a new year will bring us success.

And then we waver, doubting our own ability to follow through and actually DO the things we have all those good intentions for.

A strategy for staying on track will help

One of the most useful things I’ve found to combat the doubt about your own ability to follow through is to know that you have a strategy for staying on track. And then, actually using the strategy and finding out that it works bolsters your confidence, making this simple strategy all the more powerful.

So go ahead, make those New Years Resolutions, set objectives, and dream big. Then follow these five easy steps for staying on track to increase your chances for success.

Step 1:  Use notes to remind yourself to be more aware

Put a note where you’ll see it throughout the day. It can say “Pay attention,” or “Hey! Get back to work!” or “What are you doing?” or whatever you think will get your attention throughout the day. It should be something that will stop you, so you can become more aware.

For years a “Pay attention!” sticky note on my monitor worked for me, until it got to be part of my environment and I didn’t see it anymore—that’s when it’s time to move on to something new that will get your attention.

Step 2:  Set your timer to break your trance

If you tend to get sidetracked and then really engrossed in rabbit holes instead of working on your intended task—and who doesn’t?—try setting your timer in 30 minute intervals. When the timer goes off it will startle you, and you can then look at your “Hey! Get back to work!” note and stop the rabbit hole diving. If you have a tendency to shut off the timer and shoot right back to the distracting activity, make sure you set the timer far enough away from you that you have to get up and walk to shut it off. That usually will break your concentration enough to get your attention and break you out of your trance.

Step 3:  Ask yourself these questions about your activity

This is a critical step. After you’ve gotten your own attention and broken your concentration, it’s important to have a conversation with yourself about your activity and what it is, exactly, that you’re doing. Asking yourself these questions can help you get back to being productive.

What am I doing? Sometimes we’re just not aware of what we’re doing, and becoming aware can get us back on track.

Have I drifted off-task? Am I doing what I set off to do, or has something distracted me?

Does what I’m doing now need to be done? Sometimes we drift into the craziest things that don’t really need to be done at all.

Does it need to be done now? Or maybe it doesn’t need to be done right now, during business hours. Is it something that can wait? Or if it is a critical business issue, is it more pressing than what you had planned to do?

Does it need to be done by me? Maybe someone else can take care of it so you can get back to the business task you had planned to do.

Is it getting me closer to my objective for the day? Maybe it’s more important than what you had planned and will get you closer to your business objective, but probably it isn’t. If it’s a distraction that takes you away from your business objective, being aware can help you put it aside.

Is it distracting me from something that would get me closer to my objective for the day? Being aware that the distraction is taking you away from something more important is critical.

Is it income producing? A focus on producing income is probably one of your priorities.

Is it distracting me from something that is income producing? Is there an income-producing activity that is suffering because of your focus on the distraction?

Can I be doing something more productive right now? 

Step 4:  Write your distracting idea or activity down. Keep a list of the rabbit holes you want to get back to

It could be you were being really productive and working toward your objective for the day, when you got a fabulous inspiration for something that could really benefit your business, and whoosh! You’re down that rabbit hole before you even know it—that happens to all of us. After asking the above questions, maybe you realize you can’t really implement that idea now anyway, but it’s so fascinating to research and you don’t want to let it go. You don’t have to lose the idea forever, but it may not be the most productive idea right now—so write it down. Have a dedicated place (I use my parking lot, a place on my wall where I write these ideas on sticky notes) to keep track of these ideas until the time is right to get back to them.

Step 5:  Reward yourself every time you get back on track

When I was eating sugar, I used to reward myself with M&Ms. Now I will get up and take the dogs for a short walk as a reward for quitting the unproductive activity. Or go sit in the sun for 10 minutes. I also like the idea of putting a few dollars in a jar towards something I don’t need, like a new pair of shoes. After awhile, the idea of being productive and getting back on track will be a reward in itself. Also, the extra income and confidence that comes along with a more successful business helps, too!

Step 5:  Keep track

Keep track of how many times you catch yourself doing something unproductive or going down a rabbit hole during the day. How many rewards did you give yourself this week? How many times did you go out and sit in the sun? How many dollars did you put in the jar? Can you believe you almost wasted all that time? Doesn’t it feel great to know how much more successful your business is going to be because now you’re taming your rabbit hole diving?

Being aware, and having a method to remind yourself to stay on track, is the biggest part of the battle—don’t you think?

So, what are you doing? Hey, get back to work!

Want to learn more?

P.S. For more specific strategies to work on your business in bite-sized chunks, check out my Business Blueprint Chunks, short recorded classes on individual strategies to help your business.

For staying on track, I recommend:

Class 3: Find Your Sweet Spot: How to know what you do best, so you can focus on it. $17

Class 24: Block Your Time: Critical to getting things done, and you can skip the to-do list. $17

Class 27: Follow Through: How to keep putting one foot in front of the other to finish what you start. $17

Click here to purchase individual class recordings, or purchase the entire series.

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