How and when to self-reflect on your future, with intent.
Most of us feel our lives, jobs and relationships could be better.
Maybe even much better.
So, if you could change just one thing in your life, what would it be?
For most people, the thing they’d most like to change is none of these.
What they would give almost anything for, is…
Time has definitely become one of our most scarce resources.
And it seems to be getting scarcer! And more and more difficult to control.
If you’re a typical professional, you’ll attend 12 or more meetings each week and get at least 131 emails each day, together eating up around 25 hours of your working week.
Just in meetings and emails!
It’s no wonder you feel like there’s no time to do any actual work.
And right now, just to further squeeze your available time, the pre-Christmas, pre-New Year period seems to breed a truckload of arbitrary deadlines – everybody wants their project, report or outcome finalised, packaged up and ticked-off before the holidays.
Which, almost certainly, leaves you limping, hurtling or wobbling desperately to a life-saving break away from the weekly grind – to a few days or weeks where work is far from your thoughts.
Or will it be?
The reality, for most of us, is that unsolicited thoughts of work, business or career inevitably seep into our holiday consciousness.
And when they do, our most common response is either to let them drift, aimlessly and unfulfilled, or to simply shut them down, by occupying ourselves with some unproductive holiday distraction.
Which means you’ve wasted the best opportunity you’ll have all year to do some meaningful self-reflection – some personal strategic thinking that might just be your pathway to that elusive goal of having more time.
Which is not as complicated as you might think. (Note, I didn’t say it was easy – it’s just not complicated!)
To have more time and more balance in your life, you simply need to create 3 things:
- Autonomy: being high enough in the pecking order to independently determine how you spend your time
- Delegation: having other people to do most of the work for you, and
- A vision: creating a clear, well-defined idea of what you want your optimal working life to look like, from a time perspective.
And no, I’m not dreaming!
Look around you at the people who seem to have it most together, and you’ll likely find these three attributes playing a big role.
Of course, making these happen requires some serious thinking and strategizing. And the best time for that is when you’re not ridiculously busy doing a million other things!
Like over the holidays!
Now I’m not suggesting that you devote your entire holiday to this exercise, but I’m quite confident there’ll be ample incidental self-reflection time – laying on the beach, driving in the countryside, or snoozing on the couch.
So, plan to use it!
And be deliberate and proactive about it.
Self-reflect with intent!
The first thing to do is focus on your vision:
- What should your typical working day/week/year look like in, say, five years’ time?
- How will the extra free time you’ve created be configured – will you work just four hours a day, or three full days a week or only 9 months of the year?
- What sort of career role or business can accommodate that configuration?
- And what, then are the key steps and strategies you’ll need to implement to be operating in that role or business?
Next, you’ll need to validate your vision from a delegation perspective:
- Can the bulk of tasks in your future role be delegated to others?
- How will the delegated jobs be structured and managed?
- How will you avoid the common trap of spending more time than you do now, motivating, training and managing your direct reports?
- And what strategic changes will be required to realise these new working arrangements?
And will they help you achieve sufficient autonomy? Achieving control of your working life can happen in many ways:
- Do you want the security of a paid job, or will you operate your own business?
- Will you pursue a promotion pathway or relocate into one or more new organisations?
- Will you need more training, experience or a different skillset to rise to a level where you’re effectively in control of what you do and when you do it?
By focusing on these three goals, you can begin to be more deliberate in laying a foundation for the life, job and relationships you want — three to five years from now, and beyond.
But as I said, it’s certainly not easy.
So how should you go about it?
- Create a sense of urgency
Making time to think about your future is obviously important, but it’s rarely feels urgent, so most professionals simply fail to take action, year after year. Identify when you’ll have some free time (as I said, end of year holidays is a perfect time for many) and commit to doing it then!
- Set up the right environment
Try to create a relaxed, distraction-free setting. Tell your kids, partner or friends you’re just after a little ‘you-time.’ Have a pen and something to write on (a drink coaster is perfect). And don’t try to figure it all out in one session – you’ll be amazed what you can achieve in four or five opportunistic half-hour blocks.
- Ask the right questions in a positive way
The right questions will be specific, focussed and aimed at identifying or implementing a strategy that will help deliver your goal. “How can I spend less time working in my business?” is an example of a positive question. “Why is my life such a mess?” is not!
- Be scrupulously honest with yourself
Anything less than complete honesty is a waste of time. Kidding yourself that something will fix itself, turn itself around or become less of a challenge – without you taking deliberate action – is a wish, not a plan. If you’re not sure you’re being completely honest, test that thought with a trusted friend, colleague or partner.
- Seek clarity
Don’t see your self-reflection as complete if it’s produced only vague or partly resolved ideas. While these are almost always useful, their purpose is to force you to go deeper, to examine wider options, or directions you hadn’t previously considered. And from these deeper insights your ideal strategic pathway can become clear.
- Decide and commit
Write down your plan. Review, refine and amend it until it makes complete sense. Then follow the Nike philosophy – just do it!
Ultimately, this is the point.
Self-reflection without action is just daydreaming.
And action without self-reflection is the fast-lane to nowhere.
Together, meaningful reflective thinking and a commitment to respond by executing a focused personal strategy have the power to change your life for good!
Ross Clark is the founder of Melbourne-based business advisory service, WhyWhatHow. He has more than thirty years’ experience mentoring and coaching professionals to innovate, grow and manage change.
Learn more about how you can use self-reflection to achieve a more balanced life here.
© 2016 WhyWhatHow