If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by all the things you need to do and all the tasks you need to catch up on, you’re not alone. Sometimes it can feel like you are scrambling to finish things all the time but nothing really feel completed.
When you add the stress of a global pandemic, upended work schedules and processes, and a family dynamic that may have changed radically amid all the upheaval, it’s no wonder that your productivity feels like it’s taken a hit lately. But there are ways to help get yourself back on track.
If you’ve never tried the SMART approach to productivity and getting things done, now is the time. SMART is an acronym that helps break your goals, large and small, into manageable steps.
SMART stands for
How can you use the principles of SMART to your advantage? Start with thinking of an overall goal and naming it. Think of what you might need to reach that goal—it can be as big as earning an advanced degree and as small as cleaning your closets. Consider your umbrella goal and think of SMART as the step-by-step map of how to get there.
To use SMART, you need to have an idea of your steps—that’s the specific part of the goal setting and how you want to increase your productivity. Be precise on naming what you need to do. Do you want to earn a degree? You’ll have some specific steps to take including researching requirements, finding the right program, and taking any required courses.
When you have some specifics, you’ll need some measureable feedback to see if you’re on track. For an advanced degree, that might mean making sure you have the necessary requirements for a program and a timeline for when you need to have any exams or applications completed. You might need to take a prerequisite course, but to have a measureable goal, you’ll need an application or completion date to stay on track.
Your goals are, of course, goals and they should challenge you. But your goals should also be attainable. Don’t set a goal to earn your PhD in a year because you can’t. Look at your specific goals, establish your measureable results and then realistically figure out how you can achieve them. If a degree is in your sights and you’re concerned about paying for the tuition, for instance, set steps for how you can earn credits through work, earn additional income to afford the tuition costs, or take out loans without going into significant debt. Have a plan that makes your goal realistic and doable.
Your goals should also be relevant to your life and what you want to achieve. Is your goal of an advanced degree going to help your career in the way you expect? Will your current role be expanded and will you achieve a higher pay or get a promotion if you earn this degree? Is an advanced degree relevant to your career right now and to how you define success?
Lastly, be open to the amount of time it takes to achieve this goal. Break it down by courses and by semesters and take into account all the other SMART steps to ensure you have a goal that you can finish in the expected time. If you’re expectations on timing are on target, your other steps will support your actions and help you achieve your goal. With clear goals, your productivity will get a boost.
The SMART approach can be used to many areas of your professional and personal life. Breaking down a goal into steps and strategies helps you consider all angles, predict roadblocks, and set yourself up for success.
If you’re still on-track after “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day” (celebrated on January 17th), you must have set some excellent goals! But what if you’re one majority who jettison our well-intentioned New Year’s self-improvement goals?
It may be time to add some imagination to your goal setting so that your creative right brain (which favors imagery) is working alongside your logical left brain for an all-out effort. That way you’re more likely to count yourself as one of the lucky 8% of goal setters who keep on keepin’ on until they succeed.
What are some ways to get creative? Here are three:
-Call on your inner self to “dream” your way to your best and truest life. Some nurses are loathe to call themselves dreamers because they think of themselves as doers. After all, most nurses are practical, ingenious workers and that’s what others value most about them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t also intuitive. Set aside a few minutes when you first wake up or right before you go to sleep, when you’re most “dreamy,” to imagine what you most want in your life. Do you often see yourself on a sunny beach with a paperback and a Margarita? Maybe your heart’s desire is really more R&R, and not that advanced degree you resolved to start pursuing in 2015.
-Pay close attention to your night time dreams. Some people believe that dreams ignored are like letters unread. Do you remember your dreams when you wake up? You can get better at remembering details if you apply yourself. Unraveling the meaning of dreams can be more difficult, but that too is an acquired skill. Just like with daydreams, check for patterns. Do you often dream of walking around naked in public or arriving at school totally unprepared for a big test? Ask yourself what area of your life you might feel exposed or unprepared. If you can’t figure it out, enlist a friend or relative to help you free-associate. Then make sure you’re not fighting against yourself by setting goals that are at odds with your night dreams. For example, if you’re apprehension about your competency or knowledge at work, don’t put in for a promotion or other added responsibilities until your anxiety is lower.
-Treasure map as a fun way to clarify your vision for yourself at home and at work. What’s a treasure map? It’s a simple collage that’s not so much about art as it is to get you in touch with your heart’s desire. Get a large sheet of paper or cardboard, scissors, glue, and pens or paint. Without thinking about it too much, cut out images that appeal to you and that seem to relate to your heart’s desires. Mess around with the images, shifting them this way or that until the pattern pleases you best. Once you’ve got it, glue images in place. Decorate the images or write a phrase across the top as a title. Hang your treasure map where you’ll see it often. You’ll be reinforcing whatever your inner mind shared with you in this creative project.
Jebra Turner is a freelance health and business writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at www.jebra.com.
With spring less than a month away, now is a good time to assess your progress with your resolutions for this new year. How are you doing? If you are having trouble remembering exactly what your resolutions are, there is ample time to regroup and pursue the life you desire.
But you need a different strategy. Start by choosing a theme word to serve as a touchstone for the remainder of the year. Kind of hard to forget one word, right?
Your theme word acts as a framework for the rest of 2014. Your goals should align with your theme. This approach provides clarity by narrowing all of your plans into one single focus.
For example, my theme for 2014 is “kindness.” I have decided to align my daily actions around being a kinder person in every aspect, a kinder wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, etc. Initially, I was torn between “kindness” and “fearless.” I made my selection after receiving an email asking what I would tell my younger self if I could go back in time 30 years. My response: “To be more kind.” And then it dawned on me that I could live the rest of my life by being kinder.
Another way to pick your theme word is by reviewing the list of changes you would like to make in your life. You may want to try out your word for a day or a week. You may need to try out several words before finding one that is a keeper. When you get a chance, come back and share your word with us.
Hopefully, your theme word will inspire you over the next nine months in a way your resolutions never did!
Robin Farmer is a freelance journalist with a focus on health, education and business. Visit her at RobinFarmerWrites.com.
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