When I first welcome a client to my coaching practice I often hear how she feels overwhelmed, consumed by her to-do lists and behind on her goal progress. Work is no longer fun, burn out is near and confidence is dwindling. If you can relate and feel like everything is urgent and important all of the time then continue reading!
I work with a lot of ambitious women who want to accelerate the growth of their businesses or advance their careers while living a fulfilling life outside of work. I am also ambitious, growing a coaching practice, want to spend time with my daughter, love quality time with my husband and need time for myself, so I too am experiencing the journey of getting it all done. I’ve learned when everything is urgent, nothing is important. If you want to minimize feeling overwhelmed and consistently progress towards your goals then I recommend clarity, intentionality and expectations.
Clarity is critical in the goal achievement process. I define clarity as knowing what you want and why you want it. When I am consulting a client who is feeling overwhelmed and like she’s not making progress in her business, I often ask “how emotionally connected are you to your long-term vision?” The answer I hear most frequently is I don’t have a vision or I’m not connected to my vision at all. So if you are feeling overwhelmed or like you’re spinning your wheels and not making progress towards your goals, start by writing a 10-year vision. Not sure about vision statements? Read my thoughts on overcoming vision skepticism.
Once we identify an exciting vision, I start inquiring about goals. More often than not, I find that my overwhelmed clients are focused on too many goals at one time. They might be focused on increasing revenue, increasing sales, adding a new product line, developing a new target market or growing the number of clients they impact. Yes, these focuses are often connected (growing the number clients your impact tends to positively increase revenue). But…we become challenged when our attention is divided across too many goals or initiatives. Goal achievement requires consistent execution so do yourself a favor and minimize your focus. Get good at progressing towards one goal, honor your commitments, execute on the key activity drivers and then layer on additional focuses as your confidence grows and capacity expands. Keep it simple and clear!
This clarity facilitates intentionality. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated can result from letting the day run you, versus you running the day. Are you taking time at the end of every week and every month to check in on your progress? Are you working from a plan with clearly identified key activity drivers and strategies? Have you scheduled the time to accomplish the key activity drivers and thought through potential obstacles so you can execute? It can feel counterproductive to take time to plan when the time can be used to complete more tasks and to-dos.
Working reactively (our tendency when we feel behind or overwhelmed) usually results in completing the low priority tasks so we feel good about some progress. The problem with this approach is that these low priority tasks don’t usually lead to goal achievement. If you want to break the cycle of not feeling like you are making progress, then start prioritizing time to review your goals and calendar time to complete your top priorities. If you need a system to be more intentional I recommend the Friday Ritual. Each week on Friday, I write down my weekly wins, lessons learned and top three priorities for next week. This ritual is a sacred part of my work week because it helps me celebrate the progress I am making towards my goals, normalize mistakes and failures and work with intention. As you develop the habit of a weekly review, then you can layer on a month-end review and quarterly review.
Expectations are another important component in the goal achievement process. Let’s explore two types of expectations – the expectations you have for yourself and the expectations you have for deadlines. Most of my clients have extremely high expectations for themselves (that’s what makes them awesome clients) and they are keenly aware of what didn’t get accomplished, how far they are behind, where they messed up and what they need to change. And…they tend to intensify these feelings of disappointment by comparing themselves to others. Thankfully someone very wise encouraged me to stop comparing my start with someone else’s middle or ending. If you find yourself comparing, stop comparing yourself to others and start comparing yourself to your vision, goals and plan. We all bring different educational backgrounds, situational backgrounds, family needs and time constraints to building our businesses. The more clarity you have around what you want and why, the more you can work intentionally and hopefully compare less.
Expectations also play a part in understanding the difference between actual and believed deadlines. I tend to put pressure on myself and consider all tasks and projects to have similar urgent deadlines. As stated above when everything is urgent, nothing is important. As I study successful people by reading their books or listening to their podcasts and observe successful business owners, I notice they are very good at discerning the difference between urgent and important. When everything feels urgent, you’re always feeling behind and like you haven’t completed enough. This feeling can result in working late and missing important family and personal activities. You might also stress yourself out over unnecessary deadlines. Part of my intentional planning is to look at my calendar each Friday to review what is coming up in the next week that demands my attention. I am able to prioritize tasks and projects based on their actual deadlines, not the ones I believe to be true.
Our limiting beliefs might creep up and cause us to mistake believed deadlines for actual deadlines. Do you really need to answer that email within minutes of it arriving in your inbox or can it wait until you have dedicated email time on your calendar? Is your client really expecting that proposal this afternoon or can you send it over tomorrow after you have a block of dedicated prep time on your calendar? Actual deadlines relate to upcoming meetings, due dates and commitments. Sometimes we “believe” a deadline exists when we might be guided by a limiting belief. As I continue to reflect on my most meaningful goals, identify priorities and manage my calendar, I am starting to identify the difference between actual and believed deadlines.
As you start your weekend, what accomplishments are you celebrating this week? What lessons did you learn on your goal achievement journey? What are your top 3 priorities for next week based on actual deadlines and high priority tasks? Clarity, intentionality and expectations work together to help your progress towards your goals.