Want to Change Your Life?

Change your life, change the way you plan your day. Learn to refocus your attention, redirect your thoughts, become more motivated, have more energy and build more rewarding relationships.


Want to Change Your Life? by Andy Core


Once, you had big goals and the confidence to achieve them. Now, all you feel is tired, stressed, and overburdened. The dreams you once had—of leading your department or being the top salesperson—have disappeared into the quicksand that has become your daily life.


The good news is that you can change the habits and patterns that don’t serve you. You can refocus your attention, redirect your thoughts, become more motivated, have more energy and build more rewarding relationships. To start reclaiming these goals, you’ll have to change the way you approach your day. Instead of being a worker whose actions are dictated by supervisors and to-do lists, you’ll need to begin acting like the CEO of your own life.


Here are a few CEO-worthy tactics that will help you start thriving, immediately.


Figure out what’s doable in a day. Create goals that can be accomplished in a day. Remember that nearly all problems are best faced if they are brought down to the scale of “what can be done right now” by taking on “one small piece” of a difficult situation.


Do big things before 9 a.m. Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton once said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eightball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas and actions, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.


Do first, and then know. Most people believe the knowledge that something is important should make them want to do it. But that’s not really the case. Why don’t we do what we know we should do? If we know that setting aside 30 minutes to walk or jog each day will make us healthier, why aren’t we getting off the couch right now? Study after study shows that knowledge alone usually isn’t enough to impact our desires. First, you must do something—like bite the bullet and put on your workout clothes. If you experience positive feelings and results because of your action, you will learn that whatever you just did is good, and you’ll want to do it again and again. Over time, you’ll develop a new habit, and you’ll become an evolved person. In other words, you must do, in order to know, in order to be different. Remember that nothing in your life gets better until your daily patterns get better.


Own up to your junk hours. “Junk hours” are a little like junk food. While they provide short-term pleasure, they contribute to longterm imbalance and exhaustion. For instance, junk hours might include hours spent chasing rabbit trails on the internet or checking email messages to avoid work. To maximize each day, own up to your junk hours. Identify when you’re going through the motions of work instead of doing real work. Don’t be ashamed that your junk hours exist, because everybody needs to take breaks and shift gears. Your task instead is to exchange your low-value “junk” activities for those that build greater health and value into your workday.


 Instead of adding to your to-do list, build a new pattern. Maybe you’re thinking, “Sure, I’d like to change my day, but the thought of adding a boatload of items to my already outof-control to-do list makes me want to crawl back into bed. I can’t handle any more tasks and responsibilities.” If that sounds familiar, take a deep breath. The changes that build momentum are rooted in decisions, not additional tasks. To build a productive new pattern into your life, you usually won’t have to add new tasks to your day. Instead, simply do what you are already doing or want to do in a way that becomes habitual. For instance, if you want to be more productive at work, replace aimless procrastination with scheduled breaks. In this case, you’re changing the way you perform existing tasks, not adding new ones. However, it is not enough to simply trigger the start of a new behavior. You need to make sure you have a motivating reason to make this change, as well as the confidence and energy to sustain it so that it becomes a pattern.


 Start with one thing. Then add another. Then another. Losing weight is one of the most commonly made New Year’s resolutions and one of the most commonly abandoned because people think of it as a singular change. It’s not. To lose weight, a person will need to eat healthier, eat smaller quantities, and become more physically active. Those are three changes—and each has many smaller components. The point is that you should not take on more than you can handle. Break each goal down to its smallest components and pick one of them to tackle. Pursue this change until it becomes a habit and then move on to the next. Start with one thing and don’t add another until you’re ready. Positive motion creates positive emotion. 


Make a big-box checklist. You already have a to-do list and chances are that it is not as useful as it could be. Too often, you get stuck doing the urgent instead of the important. To solve this problem, make an actual, on-paper checklist each afternoon for the following day or each morning. Put a box by each task. The more important that task is for you to complete that day, the bigger its box should be. I focus first on my “big-box” tasks. At the end of the day, if most of them have checkmarks, it’s generally been a good day. Prioritizing my daily list like this may sound simplistic, but it makes me feel more accomplished and satisfied with my day. It also has helped me relax in the evenings because it is easier to remember the big boxes I’ve checked off, thereby making it easier to leave work at work. I’m no longer distracted by each shiny ball that rolls by—I’m able to ignore them and train my focus on what’s really important.


Think about it so you don’t have to think about it. All of us have tasks and obligations that take up a lot of our time, or are difficult and frustrating. For instance, I was once a hunt-and-peck typist, slowed down and aggravated by the need to produce reports. To solve this problem, I relearned how to type, using a two-handed method. Learning new patterns can initially be tedious and laborious, but once they’ve taken hold—often in three weeks or fewer—they’ll speed up your activities, streamline your efforts, and lower your stress. By putting in some thought about “problem areas” now, you won’t have to think about them later. Eventually, this method changes oncetedious tasks into automatic behaviors.


Infuse meaning into your work. Doing meaningful work does not mean you will “love” every second of it. It can simply be recognizing what you enjoy about your work. With this recognition, you’ll be more motivated, productive, and satisfied.


To determine the meaning in your work:

• Focus on what gives you the greatest joy and meaning at work, and define it.

• Reflect on how you are making a difference at work and through your work, and give examples.

• Reflect on the meaning of your work as it relates to your core values.

• Seek to increase what you enjoy. You’ll find out that the routine chores required of you will become easier and you will complete them more quickly if you focus on what you find exciting or fulfilling.

• Seek to serve, not shine. To some extent, it’s human nature to look out for Number One. We all want to rack up accomplishments and receive accolades. But in many situations, the desire to shine can cause us to get in our own way.


Ironically, the key to shining is putting others first. People who channel their efforts toward making others’ lives easier are nearly always respected, included, and considered valuable. When you help others reach their goals and become their best, you’ll usually find that the same things happen to you.


Fill up your “energy bank account” so you can make withdrawals when you need them. Throughout life, circumstances arise that are beyond our control. You may experience a major illness, lose a loved one, or be forced to relocate. Because of these “out-of-our-hands” circumstances, we must focus on controlling what we can. Know your needs and capacities and try not to exceed them regularly. In other words, get enough sleep, eat nutritiously and exercise when time permits. In this way, when you have to push the limits, you’ll have a healthy margin of energy or motivation to draw on. Manage what you can as often as possible in order to compensate for what you cannot manage.


Forget the future. (Really!) The future can be inspiring, but it can also be scary and misleading. Doomsday thinking can plunge you into paralyzing anxiety, and making incorrect assumptions can send you down the wrong path. That’s why, aside from setting goals for yourself, you should try not to let your mind wander into future outcomes. “Thrivers” trust in an execution mindset and focus their attention and efforts on the here and now, because nobody can predict when or under what conditions the future will unfold. The only thing anyone can truly do is to focus on the processes of today—and live them out to the max. This will not only produce personal peace in the present tense, but it is also the best preparation for what the future holds. Enjoy the process and take great joy in the rewards.


Forgive yesterday so you can work on today. Most successful, hardworking people are often hard on themselves—even to a level that is unproductive. Long after the event, they beat themselves up relentlessly instead of spending their time more productively.


Treat yourself with the same compassion and generosity you’d extend to someone who has messed up or fallen short of a goal. If it helps, follow the two-hour rule I learned from one of my past coaches: When you have a bad performance or make a mistake, you have two hours to pout, scream, cry, wallow, or do whatever you think will help you deal with the disappointment. But when 120 minutes have passed, it’s time to start moving forward again.


Andy Core is the author of Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well .He has spent the past 23 years mastering what it takes to become energized, healthy, motivated, and better equipped to thrive in today’s hectic society. To learn more, visit www.andycore.com.


This article appeared in Advisor Today. 


Topics: Time Management