How to Take More Aligned Action & When To Adjust Course
If you’ve already read the blog this year, you’ll know I created a series designed to help you set a solid foundation with actionable steps to achieve your most important goals. This is because I want you to be successful at achieving what’s most important to you in the new year.
If you have important goals for the coming year, you’ve struggled to achieve what you set out to in the past, or if you’re feeling a little unclear as to what your goals are, the good news is that there are simple, effective techniques that do work.
These steps are powerful whether you’ve got big changes to make or your life is pretty good and you’re ready to take it up a notch.
If you haven’t read or completed Step One: Be Strategic and Step Two: Be Specific, you’ll want to do these first. Set aside some time to take stock of where you are and to consider how you want to feel and act differently – so that you can bring your best out at work and live a more satisfying life.
STEP THREE: Be Steady & Structured
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you’re ready to take action and begin to track your progress. This is where your actions and commitments gain momentum and you decide what will best support you in the months ahead.
Want all the steps now? Download the full PDF Guide with Five Steps to More Sustainable Success.
Prefer to watch? Here’s the video:
Sometimes when we set out to make a change, we get excited about the potential, we may even write down some goals. But then something else comes up, we get busy, we get distracted and we don’t come back to them. Or we don’t make the progress we’d like as quickly as we’d like and so we get discouraged.
It’s great to set a clear intention or goal, and it’s important to be as specific as you can be about outcomes. Yet if we’re not taking consistent and aligned action toward our highest priorities, not much will change — or it will be more of a struggle than necessary to achieve lasting change.
Achieving important goals takes more than intention or even commitment and specificity. You need to take consistent, aligned action and check-in regularly.
This third component helps you know when things are on track and also when it’s time to adjust course.
I can hear some of you groaning now. I know that the thought of being structured and steady is not all that exciting! It may even sound downright restrictive.
But I experience it differently. Having some consistency and structure doesn’t mean you do the same old thing every day. In fact, most of us don’t have a “typical” day or week. What it does mean is that you have a system – that works for you, your business, your organization – by which to:
- Show up (ideally in the way you’re envisioning)
- Assess progress
- Make difficult decisions, and
- Determine when to adjust course.
For me, although there is consistency in the type of work I do and in my daily habits which support me showing up at my best, it’s rare that I have a typical day, much less a typical month or year. I was in 20 or 30 different cities and 4 countries during the course of the past year alone, several of them multiple times.
Whatever the work you do and whether you’re a frequent traveler or not, I’m willing to bet that you’d also find it hard to describe a “typical” day or week, much less a typical month or year. Those variations are part of what makes life interesting and exciting – and yes, sometimes more challenging than we’d like!
That said, there are certain structures and habits that when you do them with consistency will help you show up at your best – and, in turn, help you get the results your’e seeking. For me, these include getting enough sleep, meditating, staying hydrated, eating fresh, healthy foods I enjoy and exercising. These fundamentals help me show up at my best wherever it is that I am and whatever it is that I’m doing.
There are other practices – like reviewing weekly priorities; checking those against my major themes for the year; and checking in with those that I care about and am closest to – that help me know if I’m in alignment with what’s most important or if it’s time to adjust course.
It’s important to figure out how YOU work best, consider your own priorities and build your own structure around that.
This could include things like:
- Time to yourself each morning to review yesterday’s progress, assess what needs to be moved to today’s priorities, and what may no longer be as important as you thought it was
- A regular meeting with your team that has a clear agenda and action items
- A report or regular communication to keep your clients or business partners apprised of key milestones, deliverables or new offerings
Achieving important goals takes more than intention or even commitment and specificity. It takes more than knowing your core values, vision and mission. You need to take consistent action and have some method to check-in regularly so that you can adjust course. You need a plan and you need some way to measure progress against it.
Depending on what success looks like to you, this can be a loose framework with a quick daily check-in or a detailed project plan with regular team meetings scheduled on the calendar months in advance. What’s most important is that you have a framework and a structure that works for you, that supports your sustained success.
When we have some steadiness and structure, this sets up a foundation for success and productivity that not only helps us get traction on what’s most important, but also creates the space to enjoy more free, unstructured time, to take care of ourselves and to be with loved ones.
Downtime can seem like an elusive luxury despite multiple studies showing how we all perform better with more downtime. The reality is we’re at our best when we have some balance between expending our energy and regularly renewing our energy with downtime and play.
When you commit to regularly re-fueling yourself, you’re creating a happier, more effective and more empowered version of you. This has a ripple effect. It filters through to those you care most about: your customers, your colleagues, your team, your family and friends.
Being structured and steady is not just about checking in with your actions and intentions. It’s also about an awareness of your own energy, attending to your own resources – on not just a physical, but also an emotional, mental and even spiritual level (however you understand and experience it). This combination impacts how you show up each day and on the results you get – as well as your overall experience of life.
So although there are fundamental needs we all share such as sufficient rest, healthy diet, hydration and exercise, it’s important that you consider what specific combination works best for you. Be open to experimenting. If you’re at your best early in the morning, use that time for your most important activities. If you have children, you’ll probably want to schedule focused work when you aren’t around the kids. If you value spaciousness in your day, it’s important that your schedule supports that.
Here are a few practices to consider for yourself as a business owner or leader:
- Have a morning ritual. This could be a walk or jog outside, silent meditation, reading or listening to something that inspires you, a gratitude practice or taking the time to decide what you’ll do that day to move in the direction of your most important goals.
- Check in with how you’re feeling. Our emotions are an important guidance system that can show us when we’re aligned as well as when we may need to adjust course.
- Focus on the next 90 days. While planning in detail for the year can be overwhelming and often not terribly effective — given the pace and the rate of change – most of us can manage a handful of smaller goals that we’re committed to over the next few weeks and months. This is why so many businesses rely on quarterly objectives. This also gives you the chance to try something out before committing to a particular path in a bigger way.
- Schedule your priorities. Place them on your calendar. Commit to them as you would any customer appointment, social engagement or team meeting. Put a recurring time to check in on your own progress in your calendar. If you didn’t get to something on your calendar, move it to the next available spot so you don’t lose it.
- Review and update your to-do list regularly. Do this at the start and end of each day or week. Are your actions aligned with your most important outcomes? Move the things you didn’t get done (that are truly priorities) forward to the next day or week.
- Use sticky notes. A few well-placed, brightly colored sticky notes can be an encouraging reminder during a busy day of your most important intentions. You can also use sticky notes for inspiration.
- Get accountable. Connect with a trusted colleague, coach or friend who can serve as your accountability partner.
- Use an app or tool. There are lots of options such as Goals on Track or HabitList to remind you of your commitments. If you prefer analog to digital, the Bullet Journal is an excellent and effective tracking system.
I encourage you to identify 1-2 practices to support your success and stay with it for at least a month to better evaluate if it’s working for you.
When you are steady in this way, you’re also more likely to identify when you’re doing things that aren’t so aligned with your intentions and priorities. When you notice this (and expect it to happen, we’re all human and we can also count on life to bring us the unexpected), it’s a good opportunity to ask if it’s truly important.
If you’re not getting a big “yes” to that question, consider these three options:
- Delay: Could it be placed in a “parking lot” instead – a list of things you’d like to do at a later time, once your most important commitments are met? Personally, I’d like to learn to speak Spanish but it’s not a top priority for me this year so it’s in the parking lot.
- Delete: Could it even be placed on your “not-to-do” list so as not to distract from your most important outcomes?
- Delegate: Could you re-assign it, delegate it to someone else?
It can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity or request but it’s really hard to do that and maintain your focus or sanity – much less enjoy the pace of your days or put sufficient energy on those people and priorities that are truly top for you: your business, your colleagues, your clients, your loved ones.
- How will you check in regularly to see if you’re making progress toward what’s most important?
- What habits will serve you each day to move in the direction of your most important goals?
- What steady and consistent actions would make this your best year yet?
Remember that when you’re on the threshold of making changes, it can be supportive to talk about your thoughts, goals and feelings with a trusted friend, family member, colleague, or even with a skilled professional who can help you make sense of what is going on – as well as what steps are most effective to help you achieve what you’ve set out to.
Want all the steps now? Download the full PDF Guide with Five Steps to More Sustainable Success.
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