I’m a huge fan of goals; they give you focus, direction and motivation. But how do you sustain the energy and enthusiasm? When you’re tired, busy and surrounded by distractions, how do you stay on track?
It’s tricky. Whatever your good intentions and commitments to plans and projects, you’re bound to have periods of time when you slip up or drop the ball. I know what it’s like. I’ve really been struggling with my goals this month – finding it harder to do all the things I know make ‘having it all’ possible and enjoyable. As always, I am getting up early – some balance habits I won’t drop no matter what! – but others, like working out 3 times a week (I’m down to 2, and achieving that has been seriously hard), making sure I’m not trying to do things perfectly, keeping organised and not taking on too much – well, to put it simply, I’ve fallen off track.
Does any of that sound familiar?
If you’ve ever had a week where things have felt like more of a struggle, or where you haven’t had the energy to keep doing all that’s necessary to keep the work/family engine running smoothly (and who hasn’t?), then this blog is for you. The good news is that there’s no need to panic. If experience has taught me anything, it’s how normal and common it is to fall off track; to have everything under control and running smoothly one week/month, only to find that it all starts to unravel the next. The truth is, I don’t know anyone who can sustain the highest level of performance at all times by themselves. Everyone needs a little help for those off days, those days you don’t want to get out of bed, or days when you’ve given everything and it feels like it’s not enough.
And that is how I help my coaching clients. Every single one of them has had to face the challenge of staying on track in some shape or form. I am lucky in that I get to coach brilliant female lawyers who are as ambitious about their personal lives as they are about their careers – i.e. they want to work hard and do well, but they also want to have fun. The rewards are great, but there are times when it’s hard work, times when even they fall off track. My job is to be there on the sidelines, spurring them on, giving support and holding them accountable to what’s important, so they are not distracted and diverted by what is not.
In this blog, I’m going to give you some ideas for how to get back on track. If you are not doing all the things you want to be doing, or know you should be doing to improve your work life balance because you have lost the time, energy or motivation to do it, then read on.
How to get back on track.
1. Get a buddy
Find someone with a similar goal or objective and agree to support each other to achieve your goals. Set targets and check in with each other regularly. Arrange to contact each other if you feel yourself falling off track. Statistics show that runners who exercise with a running buddy have better performance, consistency and motivation than those who exercise alone. Sometimes joining a club or larger group of like-minded people can have the same effect; think of book-clubs or fitness groups. Sympathetic support and encouragement can work wonders for keeping you on track.
2. Get a coach
It’s a common misconception that people only get a coach if there’s something wrong in their lives and they need to fix it. Let me set the record straight. The reason to get a coach is because you have a goal you want to achieve but you know that life (tiredness, busyness, distractions…) and sometimes your own thinking, gets in the way. Paying someone to support you, challenge you, cheer you on and (where appropriate) advise you, is how you stop being one of those people who talks about doing stuff, and become one of those people that actually does it. A great coach will help you clarify your goals, make a promise to yourself to achieve them, and when you start to deviate from that promise, a great coach will help you get back on track. It’s called accountability, and it’s what my clients tell me they value the most about our work together.
3. Set reward milestones
If you have a grand, ambitious goal, achieving it might take a long time. To keep yourself interested and motivated, set smaller milestones along the way and reward yourself when you reach them. Recent studies have shown that even tiny rewards can make us feel good and keep us on track, which then fosters self-motivation. This study by the Academy of Management Learning and Education showed how rewarding students with a small amount of credit for extra work can encourage them to engage better with online courses. Small and regular rewards lead to positive self-motivation and progress.
4. Connect with your why
Commitments to goals that you have plucked out of the air based on what you think you want are easy to neglect because when there’s work to be done, it’s easier to go out for another cup of coffee or open Instagram. I know this because I do it myself! (coaches also need coaches, by the way). But when you choose goals that are connected to your inner values, or your ‘why’, the meaning and reason for your continued commitment becomes clear. Values are motivating. When you lose your way, connecting with them will get you back on track. For example, one of my core values is health. To this end, one of my goals is to work out 3 times a week. Although I don’t always achieve it, I have a pretty good go most weeks. It is important to me because working out 3 times a week helps me live according to my values. There is reason, passion and commitment behind my goal. Unsure of what your values are? Have a look at my blog post on living your ‘why’ here.
5. Go small
Sometimes we find things too hard because we’re trying to do or be too much. We start with an impossibly high standard, and when that standard can’t be sustained and we fall off track, we want to give up. Instead of giving up, go small. Go back to basics. Can’t manage 3 times a week at the gym? Go once. Can’t keep the whole house organised and tidy? Just focus on the kitchen. Can’t get up an hour early every morning? Try 20 minutes instead. Or 10. Give yourself permission to go small, and before you know it, you’ll be champing at the bit to move up to the next level.
6. Focus on one thing
I’m not a fan of multi-tasking because I’d rather work smarter than harder and the results are so much better! When life gets overwhelming, stop multi-tasking and focus. Focus on one thing. You only have a certain amount of physical and mental energy each day, so be careful how you use it. If you have fallen off track and aren’t performing as well in all the areas you want to, don’t exhaust yourself trying to fix everything at once. Pick one area (the most important, if possible, or the easiest, if necessary) and focus on getting that one area back on track. For example, If your exercise regimen has gone out the window, your house is in chaos and you’re behind on your work email, choose the one which – once sorted – will make the others easier. For me this would be my exercise. If I get my exercise back on track, I know that’s going to give me the energy and motivation to do the other two. If your multi-tasking habit is slowing you down, “The One Thing” by Gary Keller is an excellent book on the ‘one thing’ philosophy.
What do you do to stay on track? Are there any other strategies that work for you ? DM me on Instagram to share your tips @babyproofcoach
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org