When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When stress is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
If your plate is overflowing with obligations, your to-do list is longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and you’re treading upstream against the current…
I feel you. I really do.
So how do we find the grit and gumption to keep going, when the safe seclusion of the couch sounds all the more blissful?
Here are 5 rules I live by to stay productive no matter what roadblocks rise in my path:
- Don’t Ponder it, Go for it
It was a dark and stormy night…wait a minute, wrong story. It was a dark and stormy morning. Yes, that’s the one. The other day, I woke to a violent pounding rain and howling wind. I rolled over and glanced at the clock, and based on the weight of my eyelids, I was sure I had hours longer to sleep…but no. It was time to get up; I had planned to meet my girlfriend for an early morning workout before work.
Here’s the thing, if I stayed there in bed and pondered what I was about to do – abandon comfort and replace it with that frozen wind, rain, and weights – I might have never left the blankets.
Thinking about the doing amplifies the task exponentially. Thinking too much feeds the tasks until the mole-hills peaks above Everest.
Whatever it is ahead of you, focus on the solution, not the problem. That morning, I focused on how great I was going to feel after starting my day with a good workout and a good friend.
Don’t ponder the negative, just act for the positive. Don’t think about doing it (Nike does have a point after all), just do it.
- Prioritize (ahhh, the magic of pen & paper)
I know how a day can surge into a tempest of to-do’s in your head. It can feel absolutely impossible to tackle. Where to begin?
Okay, first, breathe. Next, write.
When you let your worries and tasks swirl around in your mind, they will only keep gathering debris and momentum. By writing them down, you transform the storm into a step-by-step path.
Every morning, I write my to-do’s on a list and then prioritize them in order.
Think, what do you have to get done today?
I know you want to do it all today, so do I. But the world won’t stop spinning if that basket of laundry has to wait for tomorrow. The to-do list is never done, so pace yourself with priorities.
Pick a few things that you can realistically do today, and see them through. Then honor and celebrate your progress, no matter how small it may seem in the long stretch.
Every step counts.
- Make That Two, Please
Too many times I’ve planned something, like a workout, but then got caught in emails and work. Then I find the whole day has slipped away while I’ve worked out nothing but my fingers, tread-milling them a mile a minute on the keyboard.
I knew there had to be a secret to preventing this. And I found it in community. A partner, a friend, a team. If I make plans to meet friends at the gym or for a hike, it keeps me accountable and forces me to get there.
Making plans with others = accountable action.
Plus, how much more fun is everything with a friend?! When we’re facing challenges of any kind, it’s so easy to feel buried under the obstacles, all alone under there. But can I tell you a secret?
You are not alone. Ever.
So, if you’re needing some accountability or motivation, dial up a friend. They might just be needing that from you too. Whether you end up doing paperwork side by side, pumping each other up at the gym, sharing a quick recipe when you don’t have time to cook the regular, or meeting just to talk it out, it makes all the difference.
- Reconnect with your Why
It is true that those who have a “why” can endure any “how”.
It’s so easy to get so caught up in life that we forget to live. We just keep going through the motions. But without the focus of purpose, tasks both big and small become nothing but antagonistic.
What is the purpose, the goal, or the belief driving you to do what you’re doing? Whatever challenge you are facing, remember why you started in the first place.
Why = worth, and worth converts to fuel within you.
It’s the difference of how some can stick to a change of diet while others can’t. It all stems back to the purpose. If your why is “just to drop inches”, you’re hardly giving yourself a fair shot. A why that will keep your actions cohesive might sound something like “enhancing my health so I can empower my capacity to live a full and happy life”.
Whether you’re battling chronic pain every day, trying to make a life change, or are just tackling those unceasing chores of the day…
Find. Your. Why.
Everything you do has a purpose behind it, and reconnecting with that purpose will help fuel and motivate you to the finish line and beyond.
- Rest (Not a typo. I really mean it!)
I am days away from sharing my P.A.C.E.R. technique at TEDxBerkeley and that the final bracket of the acronym stands proudly for rest. It’s definitely one I’m still working on, and it is absolutely vital for success in anything we face.
It sounds a little counterintuitive after all I’ve said, doesn’t it — accomplish by resting? Well, it’s not a typo, I really mean it.
Resting is not stopping.
Resting is just pulling off the race track to fill the gas tank. Because no matter how many MPH you are built to race on, you’ll burn to a dead stand-still in the middle of the track if you don’t take time to refuel.
When you look at your to-do list, where is your name? Where did you make time for self-care? If you’re like I was before P.A.C.E.R. you might be faintly penciled in at the bottom, or there in the corner of the third page, waterlogged with spilled coffee.
Time to change that. Time to put YOU right on top!
You must take care of you in order to take care of everything else. Simple as that. Taking even a little time for yourself can feel selfish when your children, spouse, work or chores are yelling for your immediate attention, but self-love and self-care are anything but selfish.
By prioritizing your care, you are keeping your strength, and by putting your strengths forward you are of powerful service to all.
Take time to breathe, refuel, reboot… then charge onward my friend.
It may be near when it seems so far;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow. So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
-John Greenleaf Whittier