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.