The last Foresight Blog posting about de-cluttering your career suggested that the How Did You Spend Your Time? worksheet can guide you in discovering time wasters as well as identifying ways to cultivate time building habits. Are you sticking to the commitments you made to reduce time wasters and focus on your priorities?
When we attempt to make changes in our lives, the most common reasons that they don’t stick are social pressures and internal habits. In the workplace, social pressures can be the constant barrages of e-mails, days full of endless meetings, people stopping by your desk unexpectedly, and new assignments. No matter your job, you will likely have pressures from your coworkers, colleagues and leaders to accept work that will clutter your day and, ultimately, your career.
The issue of internal habits is more complex. Often when our career has gotten cluttered, there are good reasons within our psyche as to why this has occurred. And it can be emotionally challenging to make major, or even minor, behavior changes. The brain's natural inclination is to behave in the same patterns and habits we have been practicing.
To maintain your clutter-free career, try these four strategies to persist in the face of social pressures and the pull of internal habits:
Say no before you say yes. While it’s great to add new activities that are in the service of your career priorities and goals, do so only after you have eliminated a few time wasters. Whenever you add new things, also say no to activities that are not working for you.
Put it in writing. We are much more likely to keep our promises to ourselves when we put them in writing. And don’t just include the overall goal; also add some specifics about how you’ll know whether you are on the right track. For example, write down your goal of carving out more time at the office to do writing and creative work, and note that you’ll implement it by blocking two afternoons a week on your calendar.
Keep a reminder in your environment. Identify an object that reminds you to de-clutter. It could be anything from a photograph to a small toy to a post-it note with an inspirational saying. Place the object where you will see it multiple times during the work day as a reminder of the commitment you’ve made.
Appreciate yourself. Because our minds naturally remember our successes less powerfully and vividly than our failures, keep an ongoing list on your smart phone of all the times you honor your commitments to yourself. Check in with this list when you need a boost of confidence and appreciate how well you are doing at maintaining a clutter-free career.
Remember the first Foresight Blog posting, when I invited you to join me for big ideas in small bites? Last week’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology was an overflowing buffet of big ideas about how to live our lives with more meaning and fulfillment. Since the conference, friends and colleagues have been asking me for a summary of the highlights and new research findings. While I can’t possibly fit all the big, juicy bites into one blog posting, below I summarize three talks that most inspired me. For those of you who live in Los Angeles, later this summer I’ll be giving a free workshop about how positive psychology can help your business flourish. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more details about this event.
As with any good conference, the kick-off keynote presentation was a thought-provoking speech by one of the founders of the field, Martin Seligman. His talk was about prospection, which he defined as mental representations of the future, and he challenged the audience to think creatively about the positive benefits of envisioning the future. He suggested that past-based thinking tends to be negative, the present is fleeting, and the future is the home of hope and meaning. Because of our ability to hold a positive future outcome in our minds, we sacrifice happiness in the moment to achieve meaning in the future.
Another inspiring speaker was Chip Conley, founder of one of the most successful boutique hotel firms in the country, who used positive psychology to generate optimal experiences for hotel guests and employees. He said that companies have gotten smarter about their environmental footprint, and now is the time to get smarter about their “emotional fist print.” Conley argued that toxic work environments create emotional fallout in all aspects of life and the leader’s job is to manage the emotional pulse of the organization.
A theme across many sessions that I attended was the importance of relationships in every aspect of life. As a big fan of storytelling, I opted to attend the talk by Hollywood movie producer Lindsay Doran who spoke passionately about how the great movies that we think are about accomplishment (Rocky, Dirty Dancing, The King’s Speech) are actually about how the relationships in our lives are transformed during our pursuit of accomplishments. In other words, the accomplishment that movie audiences most care about is the ability of our relationships to survive and thrive in spite of our struggles.
What does all of this mean for our day-to-day lives at home and at work? My best takeaway is: if we want to feel meaning and fulfillment in future, cultivate positive relationships and positive emotional experiences in the present. What’s your takeaway?