I've been planning to write an e-book for about a year. I'd get super excited about it, dreaming about all the people that I might be able to give just a little bit of help or encouragement, and then I'd start doubting myself. I came up with excuses why I couldn't or shouldn't put my content out there for the world to read, and I just plain procrastinated! Fear of failure and rejection set in, and I put that goal aside.
Well, this week, I decided I'm going to just start and not in a "someday I'll publish this" way, but in a hard core, 6 week sprint with a for real deadline kind of way! This spring, I listened to Natalie Eckdahl on her Biz Chix podcast talk about hitting your next goal in just 6 weeks, and I got excited. She told success stories, and I was sure I could do it! But soon, the excuses started again as I looked at my calendar and realized there was a vacation coming up in the next 6 weeks, and that would just throw a wrench in things. The next time I thought about it, there was something else on the calendar in the following 6 weeks, and I was a little relieved to have another "reason" not to start.
Choosing not to proceed - not to challenge myself - limited me and made me feel inadequate. I really believe this began a vicious cycle that caused me to began procrastinating on all sorts of other things. Not only was I not accomplishing my goals, I was feeling guilty and weighed down by all that was undone. A good friend recently gave me some great advice. She said to pick one thing that I could finish that day, just one. I did it, and you know what finishing just one little thing did for me? It gave me momentum to want to do more and more! In Brian Tracy's book, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, he shares about the old saying: 'if you eat a live frog first thing each morning, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that it's probably the worst thing you'll do all day.' Use the frog as a metaphor for that thing that you know you should do and that you know you'll feel better when you've done - and just start!
My Sprint Step by Step
There's no magic formula, but here's what I'm doing. Would you like to join me and do your own sprint to accomplish that thing that you've been putting off? You can download a FREE worksheet here, but please read on for some suggestions.
Don't wait for a Monday or the first of the month or when things slow down at work or when the kids start school - start TODAY!
Announce your goal to at least one other person
If you keep your goal to yourself, it's all too easy to continue procrastinating. Once you share it with even one other person, your chances of meeting your goal go up significantly. The American Society of Training and Development reports that chances of success increase by 65% when you commit to completing it to one other person and chances go up to 95% when you check in regularly to report on your progress. I am currently doing a 5 day Infinite Growth Challenge hosted by Pinterest Marketing Strategist, Rachel Ngom, and one of the daily assignments was to post in the Facebook group - for all to see - what the one thing you need to do even though you're scared to do it. I shared that I'm going to write my e-book, and now I feel accountable to the others participating in the challenge to get it done!
Commit to make forward progress (however small) EVERY day!
How big your goal is will determine how much you have to do every day, but don't let a day go by without some action. Create a chain that you promise yourself you won't break. 6 weeks is only 42 days - you can do this for 42 days!! Set aside a time each day where you will record your progress and adjust your plan. I've been spending 5-10 minutes on my deck in the mornings making my notes.
Start by thinking about what success will look like. That's where you want to be at the end of week 6. My goal is to publish an e-book by September 11, 2019 (which just happens to be My Life In Order's 2 year anniversary!) Now work backwards on what you have to do to get there, starting with weekly goals. Here are my weekly plans thinking with the end in mind:
I've decided to make out daily goals a week at a time. For example, this week looks like this:
Next week, I'll make daily goals around actually writing!
Now the hard part, actually do the thing! Here is a FREE printable I've created to help you be successful. Please share with us in the comments on this post or on the Facebook page what big things you will be accomplishing in 6 weeks! You've got this!! I'll be sharing with you my weekly progress on social media (so be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram) and I'd love to hear about your weekly progress, too. If you'd rather not share with everyone, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Will you help me with my research by completing a 1 minute survey? Click here! And, if you want to be one of the first to know when the e-book is available, sign up below!
Wissman, Barrett. “An Accountability Partner Makes You Vastly More Likely to Succeed.” Entrepreneur, 20 Mar. 2018, www.entrepreneur.com/article/310062.
Eckdahl, Natalie. “Hit Your Next Goal With a Six Week Sprint.” Biz Chix, 28 Mar. 2019, bizchix.com/363-hit-your-next-goal-with-a-six-week-sprint/.
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
Vacation - that word should evoke feelings of rest and relaxation, but for many of us, it instead creates anxiety about what we will come back to when we return to the office. Access to email on mobile devices is a blessing and a curse! If you're like me, you have a constant internal struggle between "keeping up" with email and truly unplugging with the knowledge that you'll have hundreds of messages to wade through when you get back.
How would you like to not check email on vacation and get back to inbox 0 within a day of your return? Here are some tricks of how to do it! Follow these few steps to have more fun on vacation and not feel sick to your stomach about opening your inbox when you return! I use Microsoft Outlook at work, so most of the how-to's are specific to Outlook, but the tips can work for almost any email program.
Spend Minutes Before You Leave to Save Hours When You Return
In less than an hour before you leave for your trip, you can save yourself five times as much time when you get back. If your company uses Outlook and your email goes through a Microsoft Exchange server (as opposed to a mail provider like Gmail or Yahoo!), you can literally process your emails when you're far, far away and Outlook isn't even running! It's easy - just open Outlook, and click on "File" in the menu bar in the upper left of the screen. Choose "Automatic Replies," and after you've selected the dates and created templates for your replies, click on the "Rules " button - this is where it gets really cool! Here you can create nearly endless rules to automatically delete, move or forward messages based on a variety of criteria like who sent it, who it was sent to, the subject, etc. The rules run and take care of your messages automatically, so that even if your "no email on vacation willpower" fails you and you pull up email on your phone, those messages will already be taken care of.
If you use Outlook with a mail provider like Gmail or Yahoo!, you can create rules but they just won't run until you open Outlook, and you'll need to manually turn them on and off. Just click on the "Rules" icon on the "Home" tab and then select "Manage Rules & Alerts." If you use something other than Outlook, don't despair, you can create similar rules, too!
A Vacation Review Folder Makes You Feel Better
On my last vacation, I tried to only check email occasionally and when absolutely necessary. After a total of 6 days out of the office I came back to 1, 200 emails . I actually had received 1,600 but because the tip about out of office rules, 400 of those messages were automatically deleted or moved to a folder for me. But still, 1,200 emails is a LOT, and I needed some shortcuts to get through them quickly and without missing anything important. The first step to get through a post-vacation inbox is to create a new folder where you can move items you need to reply to or that contain an action.
Here's how you do it in Outlook:
As you go through the next few steps I'm going to outline for you, this folder will be a holding tank for your later to do's. To make it very easy to quickly move items to this folder, set yourself a Quick Step. When a message is selected in the Inbox view, you can simply click on the Move to "Vacation Review" Quick Step to immediately move it out of your Inbox and into this folder.
Here's how to create a Quick Step in Outlook:
Who It's To Helps Make Quick Decisions
After you have your Vacation Review folder created and a Quick Step set up, I suggest starting by grouping your messages by who they were sent TO. This allows you to quickly see which messages you were only CCd on and which messages were sent to a large group that may not require a response or action from you. This may allows you to delete large amounts of emails without reviewing each individual message.
Here's how you group messages in Outlook:
Expand one group at a time, skipping the group of emails sent only to you - you'll handle these in the next step. Quickly scan to decide if you can delete the whole group, and if so - go for it! If you think that there may be something you need in that group, get a closer look at an individual message without opening it by turning on a reading pane. Click on the View tab and choose your favorite reading pane location.
As you review individual emails, don't get distracted and try to do anything! You have three choices: 1. Delete (use your keyboard delete key or the delete icon), 2. Move to "Vacation Review" folder, or 3. Archive (move into your existing folder structure. To read my suggestions on a simple folder structure for email read Email Organization: Part 1.) The only other thing I'm going to give you permission to do at this point is to unsubscribe before deleting if it's an email list you no longer want to be part of.
It Matters Who It's From
Now you should be left with emails that were sent only to you. To make it easier to review, drag the "To" field back down to the Inbox grid, then follow the rules above to group, but this time right click on the "From" field. You will instantly recognize if a sender is spam or one that you need to pay attention to. Just like before, as you review individual emails using the reading pane, resist the urge to do anything. Just choose from the same three choices as above: 1. Delete 2. Move to "Vacation Review" folder, or 3. Archive. Remember you're allowed to unsubscribe before you delete since that will help you have fewer emails next vacation.
Get Ready to Get Stuff Done!
Now your inbox should be completely empty - unless you've gotten some messages while working through this process. It's ok to leave those few, unread messages in your Inbox for now. The Inbox is for new, incoming messages, and your Vacation Review folder is for your backlog of things to get done. Now you have a way to see clear progress as you get caught up.
Make sure your "Vacation Review" folder is set to conversation mode. Just go to the "View" tab and check the "Show as Conversations" checkbox. In the "Conversations Settings" drop down, make sure "Show Messages from Other Folders" is selected.
Sort by received date by clicking on the header until you have the oldest conversation first and then just tackle it! Keep a notepad handy because things are going to jump in your mind while you are working through your emails. You can just jot them down and not break your rhythm. I recommend working in sprints with breaks in between. Don't work for longer than 25 minutes at a time. Set a timer and when it goes off, check the Inbox for new, urgent items only, then at least take a stretch break before diving back into your "Vacation Review" folder.
It's ideal to have a full day back from vacation to play catch up, but since that's not realistic, you may have to settle for just a couple hours a day for several days to get through your backlog, but using this method will greatly reduce your stress and the time it takes to get caught up!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!