Feel-good addiction: Breaking it to achieve big things

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Once you’re engaged in accomplishing the ‘big things,’ you’ll approach routine matters with laser-sharp focus, quickly deleting, delegating, and experiencing fewer distractions.

In today’s world, we’re constantly sabotaged by non-productive energy wasters. There are e-mails to read, Facebook statuses to update, receipts to locate for that already-late expense report, files to be organized, and on, and on, and on. These are the easy tasks that make us feel good. They may not get us any closer to accomplishing our greater goals, but at least we’ve checked a couple of things off our to-do list.

“Going after larger accomplishments — an addiction to momentum — is a far more lasting high,” says Vickie Milazzo, author of the book Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. “Once you’re engaged in accomplishing what I call the ‘big things,’ you’ll approach routine matters with laser-sharp focus, quickly deleting, delegating, and experiencing fewer distractions. More importantly, your creativity and productivity catch fire, and the momentum keeps you pumped. You’ll glide through your day full of confidence and satisfaction from achieving significant milestones.”

Here are eight easy steps to help you stop doing what feels good and start doing what matters:

1) Define three big things. Identify things that connect to your passionate vision, then choose one to schedule your day around. For example, your big thing might be to get promoted. So today you might agree to take on a high-profile work project in order to put you in the running for that promotion. Set a target date for each of your big things and begin working steadily toward achieving each of them.

2) Focus on one big thing at a time. When you engage in too much at once, you risk finishing nothing. Finish your first big thing or at least reach a significant milestone before embarking on the next. When a ‘great idea’ isn’t so great, be brave enough to cut your losses and let it go. Doing so will free you to work on the next genuine big thing.

3) Challenge your plan of action. Often, we take a tiny step toward achieving a big thing to save us from having to make a big commitment and to ward off feeling guilty about not going after our passions. Constantly ask yourself, “Am I really going for my goal all the way? Or if it’s too tough, will I quit?” Make sure your plan of action is doable. Assess each step when you are taking it and make sure it’s the right thing for you to be engaged in at that time.

4) Turn off cyberspace. There’s no greater blow to productivity than breaking your concentration to reply to an e-mail as soon as it hits your inbox. If you’re doing nothing but responding to e-mail, you’re bouncing around like a pinball. It’s also important to keep in mind that the purpose of e-mail is not to generate more e-mail. Unless a response is necessary in order for the sender to move ahead on a task or project, it’s okay to let them have the last word. Remember, e-mail is important, but there is a time and place for it.

5) Tame the social media beast. Social media can be time consuming. It’s fun to read the details of friends’, family’s, and clients’ lives and to see the photos they’ve posted on Facebook. But social media can quickly move from a social communication to an obsessive compulsive disorder. You can get caught up in all of the things to do there, including the games and other ancillary applications. Feel free to embrace social media, but use it wisely. Think of it as a way to advance relationships and achieve meaningful engagement.

6) Create sacred momentum time. Moment-um time is the precious time you are able to set aside for yourself each day to work uninterrupted toward achieving one of your big things. To carve out time, examine every activity and decide how to eliminate it, delegate it, hire it out, or do it faster. If part of your day is rarely interrupted, reserve it for momentum time. Keep your momentum time sacred. Use phrases such as, ‘I’ll be available in one hour. What time after that works best?’

7) Alternate momentum time with “weed pulling”. Miscellaneous routine tasks are like weeds in your garden: we all have them and no matter how often we get rid of them, they never go away. Yet they do have to be handled, and pulling a few weeds can provide a restorative break from more intensive work. Separate tasks into two categories: “big things” and “weeds”. After each momentum session, devote 15 to 30 minutes to weed pulling — handling e-mail, phone calls, and other minor tasks.

8) Safeguard your momentum. Accept that you won’t please everyone. Someone is bound to be unhappy about the changes you make to focus on your big things. Don’t feel guilty and stay true to your goals. Surround yourself with friends, family, and colleagues who support your vision. Discard all discouraging messages. These are your passions and goals, not anyone else’s.

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