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Text on picture of woman working at desk: 6 tips to complete the goal pushes against your comfort zone

6 tips to complete the project or goal that feels uncomfortable and pushes against your comfort zone

Last week I shared that I broke my habit of running around trying new projects and things that didn’t work by focusing on a project that forced me to learn and exercise a critical business skill that I lacked.

Working on that project was uncomfortable, pushed against my comfort zone hard, didn’t come naturally to me, and I wasn’t always motivated to keep going.

And yet I did, and the project was a success in the areas I needed it to be.

So, how did I do it?

The truth is there wasn’t just one thing that allowed me to complete this project. It was a combination of things.

Below I’ll share what I believe were the most significant contributors to completing the project.

My future success depended on me learning this skill.

While I wasn’t motivated to do this project specifically, I knew that not doing the project would mean I’d continue to have crappy results in my business. Basically, this skill was so important I knew that all my future success would be built on what I learned through this project. Not doing this project would mean my business would not move forward.

I was clear about my deadlines.

Because the project was uncomfortable and pushed against my comfort zone, it was super important to be very clear about what needed to be done and when. This allowed me to put on blinders to the larger project and only focus on the specific task in front of me.

Knowing that I wanted to start sending invites x days before the project began meant those deadlines weren’t moveable. Once I sent the first invites out, I was now committed to the date. It was out there.

I spread the work out over time.

I also made sure that the work was getting done, but was spread out. This allowed me to keep my energy up. I generally have more energy and attention in the morning, so I made sure those uncomfortable tasks came first.

I regularly reviewed my progress.

I gave myself time to review what worked and didn’t and adjust. Because the skill I was learning didn’t come naturally to me, I paid attention when something felt more in line with me (more down my alley, more me) and made a note of it to repeat later.

I had clearly defined tasks.

I was very clear about the tasks that needed to be completed. My task wasn’t to “invite people.” The tasks were to “make a list of at least 25 people that I think will benefit from this” and “personally invite that list of people via a phone call.”

It helped to focus on today’s task (or tasks) for the project. And because I spread the work out, I usually only had one 30-minute to 1-hour block of this to do each day. Once it was done, I could move on to tasks that felt much easier.

The bonus was how great it felt to have the task done and be able to move on.

I remembered my bigger goal when things felt hard (my why).

When things felt difficult, I’d take a deep breath and remember what I saw on the other side of this project. I’d remind myself why it was important to do this.

This sounds a bit like my first reason above, but this one is a bit deeper. The first one, my future successes depended on me learning this skill, is more of a nuts and bolts reason.

This reason is more of a mindset shift. It was about reminding myself that I could do these hard things and why it was important to step into being a person who did this hard thing and what that would do for me.

Again, it wasn’t just one of the above reasons that allowed me to complete the project that, on some levels, I did not want to do. It was the above reasons together that made the difference.

I’ve read multiple places that what makes a goal successful isn’t just about remembering why it’s important to you. It’s about putting the systems in place that support the work of doing hard things—remembering your why is one crucial part of that.

What questions do you have around doing projects in your business that feel uncomfortable or push against your comfort zone? Or share your experiences with this. Let me know in the comments.

Text on picture of cute hiding cat: How do you tell when you're avoiding things and when it's something to put your heart and business into?

How do you tell when you’re avoiding things, and when it’s something to put your heart and business into?

Last week I shared details of the pattern of avoiding something with an exciting new project.

It can sidetrack you from doing the work in your business that you need to be doing.

This week I said I’d share how to recognize this pattern.

Sidenote: a project can be almost anything you do in your business that is multiple steps. It might be a marketing plan, program, class, or any number of things.

So, how do you tell when it’s a project or idea that allows you to avoid other things, and when it’s something that you really should be putting your heart and business into?

It can be difficult to differentiate because it can feel the same at the beginning of both types of projects.

One question to ask yourself is, “Why do you want to do this new project/idea?”

One answer to look more into is, “I want it to be easier” (your it might be any number of things).

Sometimes making things easier is a legitimate reason. 

You might be adding a needed system to your business to make it run smoother, or you recognize you’re spending more time and energy on something than you need to be.

Sometimes making things easier is legitimate, but isn’t actually a priority.

Moving your email marketing system from your current system to a more expensive and robust system might be something you’ll need to do when you get to a certain point. Still, if you’re not going to be using even half of the features, it’s probably best to wait a bit.

Other times making things easier is a way of avoiding something in your business.

If things are falling through the cracks and lots of important tasks don’t get completed, you can decide you’ll only focus on that one big project for a while. However, without the skill of knowing how to keep track of the things you want to accomplish in your business (this is a skill, most of us aren’t born knowing how to do these things), you’ll feel even farther behind after the project is over and you still have all that other stuff to do.

This is the pattern for most answers to “Why do you want to do this new project/idea?”

Some of the reasons are legitimate, some are legitimate but not a priority, and other reasons allow you to avoid things.

At one pivotal point in my business, I realized that I was hopping from one great idea to another to avoid learning essential business skills by telling myself that this new thing would quickly bring in money. It never did.

I needed income, and it felt like nothing was working.

I did what I tell my clients to do; I took a step back and evaluated what worked and what hadn’t worked.

The good news was some things worked that I didn’t realize.

The bad news was that skill that I was avoiding was holding me back in almost everything else.

I created a new project for myself that made learning and using that skill a priority. I knew it wasn’t going to make me immediate money, but not learning and being comfortable with that skill was costing me a lot (and later, I invested in a program build on that knowledge).

I still found myself evaluating this project periodically because I kept wondering if this was my new distraction. It wasn’t.

Here’s why I knew the new project wasn’t a distraction:

  1. It helped me build and exercise a skill that I needed to move forward in my business. 
  2. I knew it wasn’t prudent to move forward with any other projects until I completed this one.
  3. I had clear goals and tracking metrics created to track my progress.
  4. I gave myself more time to set it up and do it. This didn’t mean I waited months. In reality, it meant instead of going from idea to release in 2-3 weeks, I did it in a little over four weeks (in this case, that extra week really did make a big difference).

If these things had been present, it might have been a distraction:

  1. If I do this, it will make all my other problems disappear (the magic pill or magic wand type of solution).
  2. The feeling of I must do this thing now, while the idea and motivation are fresh. If it’s a good idea, it will continue to be a good idea even when the idea/motivation is no longer fresh.
  3. I’m ignoring a skill I know I need to learn.

Doing the project was uncomfortable. It pushed against my comfort zone, I was learning something that doesn’t come naturally to me, and many days I was not motivated to keep going. 

Next week I’ll share what I did that allowed me to complete the project despite the uncomfortableness and lack of motivation.

Are you wondering if your new idea or project is a distraction or not? Bring it to the Your Productivity Break meeting on Wednesdays at 1pm Central (join the FB group, Productivity for Women Entrepreneurs, for the details) or send me a private message.

Text on picture of quilt: What situations in your business might resemble this pattern

What situations in your business might resemble this pattern?

There’s this pattern I see in myself and some of my clients.

You’ve had an excellent idea for your business, and you want to make it happen quickly.

After all, this is something that will offer lots of value to your people, and it also promises to result in extra income.

You push the other projects and tasks you had planned for aside and start working on this new thing you’re really motivated about.

But it doesn’t take off the way you expected it to. 

You thought it would be a slam dunk! Instead, you have very few people involved and your other goals, projects, and tasks have taken a hit.

Initially, it looked like you were doing something super productive for your business, even if it was a bit of productive procrastination (head over here for the productive/unproductive procrastination definitions).

Upon reflection, it seems it might have been more of an unproductive procrastination situation.

Next week I’ll share how to avoid it. This week, let’s look at what’s really going on.

If you’ve done this, know that you’re in excellent company.

The reasons I’ve fallen into this pattern are many of the same reasons I’ve seen my clients fall into this pattern.

One reason is I need to learn a new skill in my business (or a new level of that skill) and I cannot figure it out on my own. And rather than finding someone to teach it to me, I come up with a brilliant way that I think might circumvent needing to learn this vital business skill, but it doesn’t work. Now I’m more frustrated because I feel like I’ve wasted a month or more of my time, and I still need to learn that skill.

Another reason is if I’m not getting the interest or engagement I want around something I’m doing. So, instead of looking at what I can adjust or add to have the interest or engagement I want, I do something completely new that I think will result in that interest or engagement. What ends up happening is people are confused about what I’m doing, I still have to promote the new thing (and often I’m doing it the same way I was promoting the other thing), and I end up with even less interest or engagement. Then I’m frustrated and annoyed and feel like I’ve taken five steps backward.

There are lots of other ways this can manifest itself.

The basic formula is:

  1. I want to avoid this thing in my business
  2. I create a distraction that feels exciting and promising
  3. It doesn’t go the way I want
  4. I feel frustrated and further behind
  5. I either repeat the formula OR do the thing I’m avoiding

What situations in your business might resemble this pattern?

Next week I’ll share how to recognize this pattern and put a stop to it.

Text on picture: The to-do list system framework

The to-do list system framework

Last week I shared what a “to-do list” is to me, a system that allows me to stay on top of my business and on track.

This system does have a list of everything that I want to do and accomplish, but that’s not the list I look at daily. Mainly because that would overwhelm the heck out of me, and then nothing would be done (know your limits).

My to-do list system isn’t made up of one list; it’s made up of three. That’s the framework of this system.

This week, I’m sharing that framework. I’ve used this framework for the last eight years of my business. It’s taken different forms over the years, but it always has three pieces.

Everything list

This list is how I will accomplish my intentions and goals for the quarter and month. It’s made up of projects and tasks that need to be completed to stay on track with my intentions and goals. There’s also a place for the ideas and projects I want to remember for later, but they’re not a high priority right now.

Weekly list

This list is what I want to accomplish this week to keep me on track with my intentions and goals for the month. It also has tasks that need to be done each week (like the tasks that go into getting this newsletter to you).

Today’s list

This is the list of what I plan to complete today.

There are more details for each of these lists as they work in my to-do list system. These details include things like format and other information for the day, but those details speak more to what works for me. Those details might not work for you.

If this framework feels like a lot, do the parts of it that feel doable. 

There was a brief period where I didn’t have a today’s list. Instead, I worked off my weekly list.

It worked better than the haphazard system I had before that, but after around three weeks it was clear that it still didn’t work as well as I wanted it to.

I was figuring it on my own and knew that today’s list was necessary for me. But I needed those three weeks to lay the foundation of habits for the next step.

Keeping in mind that your goal is to improve your to-do list system and not make it the thing that you’ll be using for the next two years, what changes do you need to make? 

Go back to the questions I asked at the end of last week’s post for a start.

And whatever you decide to start with, don’t forget to review what’s working and not working for you in a week or two.

Of course, if you want help creating your to-do list system, reach out and let’s talk about it. Just comment below.

Text on picture: What did you think of when you read "to-do list"

What I mean when I say “to-do list”, isn’t usually what people hear

I’ve realized that what I mean when I say “to-do list” isn’t usually what people hear.

What did you think of when you read “to-do list”? Type it in the comments below before you continue reading.

Generally, people think of a “to-do list” as the piece of paper with the tasks or projects that they hope to accomplish for the day. Or that list in their head. Or it’s the exhausting list of EVERYTHING that needs to get done.

For me, a “to-do list” is a system.

This system encompasses my intentions, goals, quarterly plans, current month plans, week plans, and today’s plans.

It’s the reason I’m able to regularly send out birthday cards, stay on top of bookkeeping, and a lot of other things.

It’s the reason I have fewer things to do, but the things I do have more impact.

It helps me manage my time and expectations.

This system didn’t appear overnight and solve many of my time and attention problems.

The first version that worked well for me developed over the course of a year.

In that year, there were a couple of ways I kept track of things that didn’t last long, but they were important for me to try. They helped me figure out what didn’t work for me, and what about them did work for me.

This important period of trying things that ultimately didn’t work led me to a system I used for about 18 months. Then it needed to be adjusted.

A system will work well for me for 18 to 24 months, and then I need to tweak something. One tweak was to move my system from all paper to a OneNote and paper combination. Most recently, it was a format change in OneNote.

If your to-do list is one piece of paper with today’s tasks on it or a LONG list of everything, then I encourage you to consider what your to-do list system might look like.

Start by thinking about what you will remember to check daily or already check daily.

Other questions to consider: Is it all on paper? Maybe in a notebook or a binder? Is it all electronic? Does it sync to your phone? Is it a hybrid of paper and electronic? What part lives where? How is it laid out?

It doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s just a place to start and build from.

Of course, if you want help creating your to-do list system, reach out and let’s talk about it. Just comment below.