While some may say that Spring is the best time of year to do your professional and emotional housecleaning, my favorite time of year to do that is actually right now. There’s something about the impending fall, with its cool withdrawal and turn toward inward focus, that invites contemplation and refinement in my own life.
For that reason, when I returned from my summer vacation this past week, I decided it was time to get organized personally and professionally for the rest of the year.
This was not an easy task, as I realized while I was away that I really needed to tackle some areas of overwhelm that had been preventing me from functioning at my highest level and that needed my attention NOW.
As a result, I spent the better part of Monday working through a five step process to get my life in order for the next four months.
This is a process I work through routinely with my one-on-one coaching clients, and today, I’m offering it to you. It’s seamless, awesome, and effective, and I think you’ll find that it will immediately set you up for success for the remainder of the year.
Here’s five steps to streamline your life down to what really matters this fall. (tweet this)
1) Write up five (or less) Big Picture Issues that need your attention before the end of the year.
This is a list of no more than five primary areas of concern for the next four months. Mine includes things like Taxes (we filed for an extension for our 2013 taxes, and have until the middle of October to take care of them), Where to Live (because we’re going to be making some major choices here for the benefit of our kids’ education sometime in the next six months) and a big one, WORK LESS.
Yours will be unique to you, but make sure you’re identifying a maximum of five major issues you want to address over the next four months.
2) Empty your head of all items on your To Do List.
Your job here is to write down a list of every single thing you need to do that has been causing you mental stress, until your brain is empty.
Some of these items may be in furtherance of your Big Picture Issues– such as one of mine, which involves creating a spreadsheet of high-performing NYC public schools as a part of our Where to Live issue– but others may be entirely unrelated. The most important thing, however, is to keep writing them down, one after the other, until you’re done, however big or small each one might be.
This is an incredibly cathartic experience, and may take you several hours to complete as you leave and come back to the list over time. I often find that I think I’ve emptied my head of all my stressors, but then other things pop up when I turn to another task. Give yourself time and space to complete this, and you will know when you are truly finished.
We’ll talk more about what to do with this list in a minute.
3) Write up a list of Goals for the Fall.
This list should include concrete goals that can be quantified, as well as more esoteric or nebulous goals that you’d like to achieve. My list includes things like the hours I intend to work each day, as well as broader goals like Remember Who Matters, and Only Work with Clients I LOVE. Allow yourself to jot down here all goals, small and large, quantifiable and not, that come to mind.
Keep in mind that some of these may relate to your Big Picture Issues, but are usually less significant than items on that list.
Note: it is very important to complete this step AFTER you have emptied your head of your To Do List. What I find for myself and my clients alike is that its very hard to identify your goals for the long term, and to think creatively about what you’d like to achieve next, when you’re too busy worrying about whether you’re going to remember to find a dogwalker or to renew your passport. Make sure to do these steps in order to get the best results.
4) Write up your Ideal Day for the next four months.
This is where you start to put into practice some of your Goals and Big Picture Issues (see, e.g., for me, WORK LESS). And a word of warning: this should not be your ideal day in the event you win the lottery or otherwise don’t have to deal with your usual obligations. Instead, you want a real world, inspired view of how you want to use your time on a daily basis for the next four months.
Here’s how you do it: sit down with a daily calendar, and grid out, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, what you want your average day to look like for the next four months. This should include things like exercise, work, time with loved ones, sleep and self-care, as well as any daily practices you want to include to keep you on track. You may also want to grid in specific times to check email or social media if that experience feels overwhelming to you– I’ve done this for myself this fall.
Once you’ve completed your Ideal Day, consider as well whether you need to put any rules in place for days of the week. These might include making Friday night a date night, or only doing certain types of work (bookkeeping, marketing, etc.) on a certain day of the week. For my part, I’ve decided to set some rules about the days of the week when I will be scheduling sessions for my private coaching clients, as a means of making my schedule less haphazard.
Most of my clients feel like a weight has been lifted by the end of this exercise. There’s something incredibly liberating about putting everything in your life in a place where it belongs in time.
5) Lastly, Execute.
If you’ve completed all of the first four steps in order, you should now feel like you’ve gotten a handle on your big picture issues, your mental clutter, your goals and your time. Phew!
Your last task, then, is to execute– a task that is ongoing and requires daily mindfulness.
Here’s my process for making sure that you’re sticking to your intentions.
Every day, at the start of each day, identify the three most important things you need to do that day. These can be items on your to do list, or items that perpetuate your goals or Big Picture Issues. Only those three things matter for that day. If you accomplish other tasks too, great, but your focus should be only on your top three things.
Next, to the best of your ability, live out your Ideal Day. The idea here is not to punish yourself if you fall off the map, but rather to use the Ideal Day you’ve created as a baseline from which you operate and to which you always return. If you’ve written up your Ideal Day in alignment with your Big Picture Issues and Goals, every day you should be forwarding your vision for the next four months.
Lastly, at the end of the day, review your list of Big Picture Issues and your Goals, and make a note of what worked that day and what didn’t. Some clients also like to write down three things they’re grateful for each day as well. This daily practice of self-reflection will help you to stick to your goals, continue to refine your life, and get you where you want to go.
Here’s to making the Fall all that it can be for each and every one of us. Wishing you a week, and a season, of organized bliss.
All the best,
PS. I’ve got an extremely limited number of remaining slots for new private coaching clients this fall. If you’re interested in being one of them, just click here, and I’ll be in touch shortly!
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