Anyone who has a dog (or has witnessed a dog), knows that chasing its tail is great fun for the dog. They could run in circles fruitlessly chasing that illusive furry thing all day long, and love it.
For humans chasing their tail. Not so much.
Chasing your tail is frustrating. Energy draining. Nerve wracking. Time wasting. Success limiting.
It looks like this. You work and work, harder and hard, faster and faster, and yet you feel like you’re not getting any closer to achieving your goals.
You spend your time bouncing from one task to another. You’re not clear on your focus. You waste the best hours of your day – the time you have the most energy – on menial tasks. You buy into what your inner critic tells you. You’re rarely still.
Chasing your tail is exhausting.
So what do you do instead?
Unitask. Focus on one project, task or activity at a time. Use a timer and give yourself a set time to work and then get to it. Turn off your alerts (on your computer, smartphone, tablet), turn off the phone, close your door, and work. When the timer goes off, pick another project and set the timer again. You will be amazed at just how much you can get done when you focus on ONE thing at a time. And I think you’ll find that you accomplish your tasks not only faster but also easier and better.
Get clear. The more clear you are on your goals the more likely you’ll achieve them. Spend some time with your goals, write them down, ask yourself, “why is this goal important to me?” Or “How will this goal change me/my life?” and “How will I feel when I achieve this goal?” Asking yourself these kinds of questions not only gives you clarity around the goal, it also gets you in touch with your feelings around the goal and that is a powerful motivator.
Don’t start your day with menial tasks. Many people start their day opening their email, checking their voicemail, and any other number of menial tasks. That’s a waste of time and energy. You’ve had a good nights’ rest (well, hopefully), a healthy breakfast (you did, didn’t you?!) and your ready to begin the day with energy and focus – Start by tackling biggest task/project you have on your agenda. Knock that out and then you can sit down and check your email, voicemail. The key is to do this efficiently so set your timer for 30 minutes for both tasks and then move on to your next biggest project/task.
Don’t believe everything you think. Studies suggest we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. That’s one thought per second during every waking hour. And, for the average person, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative (Marci Shimoff from Happy for No Reason). Here’s the thing, though. Just because you have a thought, doesn’t make it true. (Repeat that last sentence to yourself!). Just because you think you’re not “enough” (smart enough, pretty enough, qualified enough, educated enough, blah blah blah!) doesn’t make it true. The two best ways to overcome negative thinking (or Gremlin thoughts) is to simply notice them and then challenge the thought with “Is this really true?” When you shine a spotlight on your thoughts they tend to shrink, so be sure to carry a big flashlight with you!
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Be still. Our culture celebrates busy-ness. In fact, it rewards it. But the thing is, YOU need a break. Your mind needs a break. So, be still. When you’re still – whether through meditation, listening to classical music, taking a quiet walk – you give your mind a well needed rest. But, ironically, guess what happens? You often receive your most creative ideas when you’re still! So give yourself the gift of stillness daily. You’ll be amazed at the rewards you reap.
Don’t try tackling all of these strategies at once (that would be continuing to chase your tail!). Break them down. What strategy will have the biggest impact on you? Try that one for a week, and pay attention to what you notice. Then try another and then another.
Chasing your tail is a choice. You can choose to run in circles or you can choose to be mindful. If you continue to run in circles, you’ll continue to get the same old results. You can also choose to be mindful. Being more mindful of how you spend your time will give you more energy, focus and ultimately allow you to make better decisions.
Enjoy your learnings.
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