It’s been a rough month for me. In the last three weeks I’ve worked only half the time that I target for working on my business each week. There were good reasons for it — we had other issues come up in the family, the kids were sick, I was traveling. All those combined to take away from my work time. I found my motivation level slipping, and even though I had time to sit in front of the computer I found myself spending the time looking at Facebook or checking my e-mail instead of doing the business tasks I had planned.
In spite of this I did make some progress over the last three weeks. The one thing I’m happy about is that I didn’t come to a complete standstill in spite of everything going on. And although I could have done more, I also could have done less… but I chose not to. So how did I manage to squeak out a little bit of work each of those weeks? There are three main guidelines that kept me going.
1. Be accountable to somebody
I belong to a private forum where members post actions they’re going to take and then regularly post their progress on those actions. I’ve gotten to know some of these members pretty well, and I know they’re reading my action plan and cheering me on. I know if I stop for too long somebody is going to nudge me to get going again. Having that support system has been essential for keeping me going.
Find someone in your family or business community that can keep you accountable for your goals and update them regularly on your progress.
Sometimes making progress in the midst of chaos means reducing your goals.
2. Set smaller goals
I knew the distractions would take time away from the business, so I allowed myself to set the bar a little lower the past few weeks. And while some may think this is a recipe for doing less work, I saw it as a way to at least get some work done instead of not doing anything at all. I set smaller goals that I knew I could achieve.
And with those smaller goals, I also set shorter timelines.
3. Give yourself permission to stop early
I gave myself permission to stop after just 15 minutes of work each day. In most cases, once I actually sat down and started to work I easily got focused and went well past the 15 minute mark. But knowing that I could stop at 15 minutes made it easier to get going. I knew that no matter how hard it was going to be, I could stop after 15 minutes if I really wanted to.
But doesn’t this just condone slacking off?
You may think this was just a plan for officially slacking off, and maybe you’re right. If I had set more aggressive goals or forced myself to work more each day I might have gotten more done. Then again, the thought of trying to meet those goals amid all the chaos might have discouraged me enough that I wouldn’t have even tried.
In the end I chose smaller actions that at least kept me moving forward instead of stressing out trying to meet loftier goals. And while I didn’t make as much progress as I have in past months, I made more progress than I would have if I had done nothing.
But there is a price
Now let me make this very clear: those smaller goals came at a price. This week I need to build my momentum back up again after three weeks of less focused work. I have more resistance to overcome, but it’s still less than I would have if I had done nothing during those weeks.
So in the end, I revert back to that age-old lesson from the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race. I’ve been moving slower these last three weeks, but I’ve still been moving steadily forward.