Last week, we discussed self-awareness as a key first step toward supporting your personal and professional wellbeing. But once you have deepened that self-awareness, and have identified the areas you need to work on, how do you go about making the changes you need in order to plan for your moments of peak performance?
Before we proceed, a hazard warning. Building your personal and professional wellbeing is a process. These choices won’t take root overnight, and you may need some support along the way.
So, what are my top five tactics for behavior change to support your wellbeing?
Prioritize your goals so you can focus effectively and perform at critical moments. Prioritize your to-do list so you don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks to be accomplished.
Effective prioritization involves identifying what matters most and who matters most at any given moment. If your response sounds like this: “everything’s important, there’s just not enough time”, then you need to get tough with yourself. Each important item or goal can be ranked. A great tool for this is a prioritization matrix.
Stephen Covey’s popular time-management matrix[i], shown below, used ‘urgent’ vs ‘important’ as the criteria, but you could adapt it to criteria that are most relevant for you, for example: impact of the results of the task, ability to delegate, need for gold-standard performance, time available, effort involved etc.
Organizing your tasks into four categories enables you to make clearer decisions about how you are spending your time, and how much energy you need to invest in making them happen. One would argue that ‘not urgent and not important’ items should be struck from your to do list completely, but if that isn’t possible, then consider whether it’s OK for them to be completed to an average standard, and reserve the gold standard for tasks in the ‘important’ boxes.
Focus on Process rather than Outcome
Take inspiration from the marginal gains approach employed by top-level athletes: to achieve Olympic Gold, they focus on performing 1% better on each of the processes involved. All of these 1% gains add up to success. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the volume of work or the scale of your goals, break it down into bite size chunks. What are the steps you need to take to get to your end goal? Use those to create your to do list, and prioritize them perhaps according to the project timeline, or even according to importance and urgency (see step 1). This will make everything seem far more manageable, and will reduce the unsustainable pressure you put on yourself to perform.
Maintain a Healthy Sense of Control
During turbulent times, resilient individuals keep a sense of control. A useful tool for this is the spheres of control and influence.
By categorizing the things that are playing on your mind as things you have ‘full control’ over, things you have ‘some influence’ over, and things you have ‘no influence’ over, you can train yourself to focus your time, energy and resources on the things closer to the center of your spheres of influence.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
I really cannot stress enough how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. It isn’t helpful to look to the famous cases of individuals who survived on four hours of sleep a night. These people were the exception, not the rule, and while they may have achieved brilliant things, nobody ever talks about how good a handle they had on their own wellbeing. My friend and colleague Dr. Chuck Schaeffer gave some excellent tips on sleep hygiene in his recent guest blog. I encourage you to follow his instructions closely.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
Working on your personal and professional wellbeing does not mean you will suddenly find yourself free from stress for the rest of your life: if only! What it does mean is that you are able to build your resilience in stressful situations, and are better equipped to deal with them. As a coach, I have found that the most resilient individuals in moments of stress or adversity are people who can change their perspective from one of performance to one of learning. By challenging your own beliefs and assumptions about a stressful situation you can change how you react to it as a consequence. If you take a negative view of the stressful situation, you will react negatively and display negative, and often unhelpful, behaviors. If you take a more positive approach, you will react more positively and behave more constructively. Our natural inclination is to adopt a performance mindset in difficult situations: what if I fail, what if something goes wrong? Try, instead, to take a learning mindset: if I am wrong, I will have learned something useful that helps me judge better next time.
Applying these five tactics to daily personal or professional tasks may require you to operate outside of your comfort zone. We have a natural tendency to prioritize what we’re good at, or what we enjoy doing. It is also very difficult to accept that there are certain things out of our control. Once again, this all comes back to self-awareness. Recognizing your natural tendencies, and pushing yourself to challenge them when they are holding you back, is the only way to improve and progress.
Interested in learning more about applying these tactics to your personal and professional life? I invite you to get in touch and have a conversation. Whether we decide to do business together or not, I am confident that our call will be of value in identifying the issues you are facing & the best way to resolve them.
[i] The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People