Everyone’s got something they want to complete. Whether it’s creative, professional, or something as simple as keeping your room tidy, sometimes you need to prepare yourself for the task ahead. If you have a goal so ambitious that you find yourself avoiding moving any closer towards it, try one of these five ways to pivot your life, guaranteed.
While each take a different amount of time to undertake, they will all help you move the needle ever so slightly, so that you feel like you can achieve whatever it is you set your mind to.
WAYS TO PIVOT YOUR LIFE #1: SET UP GOOGLE CALENDAR (60-90 minutes)
I came unfashionably late to the Google Calendar party. I had watched some AmyTV videos about calendar blocking, and read articles by Matt Ragland and Laura Vanderkam about time tracking. It all seemed awe-inspiring, but ultimately unachievable.
Fast forward about a year and I watched as my personal trainer used Google Calendar to schedule in our next session. The interface looked so smooth.
Keep scrolling through that time bar to three months ago, when COVID-19 rolled in and forced teachers everywhere into remote learning. I knew I’d self-combust if I couldn’t keep on top of all of the tasks now required of me, so decided it was now or never. And I haven’t looked back.
Here’s what you can do to finally delve into the world of calendar tools:
STEP ONE: Start by plotting out your ideal week. What would it look like if Ideal You was switched on 100% of the time and could do everything they wanted?
STEP TWO: As each day progresses, alter the calendar to reflect what you actually did. BOOM. You’ve just become a time tracker.
STEP THREE: Once you can see the reality of how you work, each Sunday review the week before to help you plan the week ahead.
- Most people recommend time-tracking for at a least a week to see patterns – honestly, you already start seeing them within the first three days. So if the typical 7-Day Challenge feels too much, don’t stress. Just stay consistently observant of your time-sinks.
- Set up activity repeats. Over time, this will make the Sunday review-and-plan session a lot more efficient.
- Colour code your activities. The calendar will look less overwhelming.
- Set up notifications that go off about 30 minutes before each task, to keep you alert. At some point you will become desensitised to the sound, but use it while it’s effective.
- Make sure you include buffer periods between tasks. Scheduling in breaks allows you to stay on track, knowing that you’ll get to pause at some point.
- Remember – it will never be perfect. You will never get everything done. But you don’t need to. What you need is to know that you can gradually increase your efficiency, and task completion rate, with a simple tool.
WAYS TO PIVOT YOUR LIFE #2: MAKE A LIST OF THINGS YOU DID WELL TODAY (15 minutes)
I decided to do this last week when I was feeling like I hadn’t spent my day well. I was also tired and couldn’t be bothered writing up my usual journal entry.
It was an instant mood changer. I found myself remembering things I’d done that I would have just skimmed over otherwise. Suddenly my view of myself was so much fuller. You too will realise that most days aren’t a waste. Even if it’s just the little things you complete. This is a wonderful gratitude exercise.
STEP (D)ONE: At the end of each day, write down in dot points things you did that bettered your life in some way. Maybe you did a load of dishes, drank enough water, or sent through an email to a colleague about an important matter. Small or big, the point is to focus on the life-enhancing decisions you make and low-key celebrate them.
- Work back through your entire day, from the beginning. This will increase those gratitude ripples tenfold.
WAYS TO PIVOT YOUR LIFE #3: SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN (10-20 minutes)
If you haven’t yet tried some of the principles of Stoicism, this could be a good place to start – it’s directly applicable to your present. The exercise we’re going to try is called Premeditatio Malorum, or “the pre-meditation of evils”. Seneca himself wrote about this.
“We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events.”Seneca
What you need to do is imagine all the things that could go wrong, and immediately follow up by preparing for them. This will not only take you out of the idealist’s mindset, but also give you the opportunity to get together tools and resources, both mental and physical, to help you push through any obstacles if they do occur.
This pre-emptive problem-solving will act as a barrier removal, and save you from soul-crushing negativity in the long-term.
STEP ONE: Think about your goals. Write them down.
STEP TWO: Think about what you need to achieve them. Write that down.
STEP THREE: Now write down why you haven’t achieved them yet or what’s been stopping you. BE HONEST. Follow your train of thought.
STEP FOUR: Brainstorm some other obstacles that might pop up that you haven’t yet experiences but could realistically happen.
STEP FIVE: Finally, write down what you can do to fix that problem, cut it off at the source, or shift your mindset about it if it can’t be avoided.
WAYS TO PIVOT YOUR LIFE #4: EAT INTUITIVELY (20-30 minutes)
I kept eyeing off Jessica Sepel’s book, The 12-Step Mind-Body-Food Reset last year, and when I finally bought it I absolutely loved it. The promise of treating my body kindly seemed too good to pass up.
While I’ve struggled to habitually implement the scrumptious recipes, I am consciously making small decisions over time, and observing the patterns in my eating behaviour. This has led to me adapting many food choices for my specific lifestyle as an often time-poor teacher.
For example, I’ve been recently using subscription boxes, as the supermarket’s temptations and inevitable food waste are huge issues for me. I’m currently trying Lite ‘n Easy to increase the convenience factor – which is where I’m most comfortable – and then over time I will build up the cooking/prepping habit until that’s the most cost- and time-efficient option for me.
I’m remaining aware of my body’s signals. If I start desperately craving chocolate, what could be causing this? It may actually be that I’m legitimately hungry, and aren’t consuming enough calories. Much like Stephanie Buttermore’s All In challenge (but perhaps not as extreme), I’m trying to re-sensitise my hunger gauge, so that I know what satiety feels like.
STEP ONE: Sit down and think about your eating habits. It could help to review your day’s food intake before you go to bed.
STEP TWO: For the problematic choices you made, what led to them? Count back, even if it’s uncomfortable, to all the internal and external triggers that might have set you off.
STEP THREE: Make the decision to listen to your body. Are you actually eating enough for your height and weight needs? Are you getting a balanced amount of nutrients?
STEP FOUR: Write down three actions (physical, doable next steps) that will improve your meal plan tomorrow. Maybe you’ll buy a chocolate protein bar to enjoy after dinner instead of gorging on half an ice-cream tub. Or perhaps you’ll drink a glass of water before and after every meal, slowly and with purpose.
- Treat this like a science experiment. Plan ahead (perhaps in your Google Calendar?) when you’ll perform your next steps, and when you’ll review your behaviours.
- Find out what cravings actually mean, in terms of nutrient depletion.
- Go with the replacement method instead of deprivation, which relies too much on mental willpower to get you by.
- Make gradually healthier replacements – you don’t have to be perfect all at once, especially if you haven’t been hitting the mark up to this point anyway!
WAYS TO PIVOT YOUR LIFE #5: FOLLOW THE TEN MINUTE PRINCIPLE (10-15 minutes)
This one is for all of you who struggle to just sit down. Once you’re through the gates, you’re usually fine, but if actually standing at the gate itself makes you clam up, all I ask is that you stick with me for ten minutes.
STEP ONE: Sit down. That’s it. How are you going? If you’re feeling any discomfort, don’t try to palm it down or let it freak you out. Acknowledge it, and its validity, and remain seated.
STEP TWO: Make sure everything you need for your chosen task is right in front of you.
STEP THREE: Set up a timer.
STEP FOUR: Press start, and focus on your task for TEN MINUTES. No more, no less. Complete and uninterrupted focus.
STEP FIVE: When the timer goes off, reflect on what you were able to get done and how long it took you to get into some sort of flow state. It wasn’t so bad, right? If it was bad, what could you do next time to tweak this?
- Ten is most definitely an arbitrary number, but I’ve found that it’s the one that works for me. Over time, you might find that, as in the gym, consistent repetition will strengthen your resolve, and you might be able to work into the 45-60 minute range, or longer!
- Try to combine this task with Jerry Seinfeld’s break-the-chain experiment. Do it every day, and try not to the break the ever-growing chain of sitting down to start something. Even if you slowly increase your capacity, keep the chain checkpoint at 10 minutes, so that you always feel that sense of accomplishment.
YOUR TURN TO PIVOT YOUR LIFE!
Choose one of these ways to pivot your life – you could even try one each day this week, or have a reset weekend and blitz through them all! Let me know in the comments below what worked and what didn’t. How did you adapt the task to suit your needs?