When Sustainability Starts With Yourself: The Key to Lasting Change in Your Personal Productivity
One of my readers asked a powerful question the other day…. “How do I get started making lasting change…?” What a brave soul to put that question forward as many wonder but few inquire. So here are my suggestions about how to make change last:
1. Look at what you are doing now.
2. Make a decision to change one thing.
3. Monitor how you are doing with that one change.
An excellent way to improve your current situation is to initially accept things the way they are. Acceptance of “how things are” provides you an opportunity to calmly look at what is working right now and how you might want things to change. When you know where you are, you can then make thoughtful adjustments.
To create this reality check I often recommend that for five days you create a log of how you currently spend your time. Break your log into 15 minute increments and be honest in your assessment and review… no one else needs to ever see it. We must look at the reality of how our day currently unfolds. If you do not see what is not working, you cannot fix it. Only by identifying what is not working can you then make a decision about what needs to be changed. That is the first step to the lasting change you so desire.
Related: 12 Tips for Time Management
Making a decision is critical. The power of deciding removes ambiguity. You design your life every time you make a decision, large and small. “Do I have whipped cream on my hot chocolate?” “Do I give myself an extra cushion of time so I am not late to that important meeting or do I make just one more, quick, stop?” All those decisions add up and shape your life. By making the decisions consciously you take more control of your day. And by knowing how you want your day to unfold, you are in a better position to make decisions allowing that day to unfold as you desired…you take control.
Give yourself time to work on the one change you’ve selected for a specific amount of time. If it is a small decision… perhaps drinking water instead of soda during meals (so you stay better hydrated and can therefore think more clearly)… maybe a week of concentrated effort is all you’ll need. In fact, what I’ve learned is that if you focus on the new behavior every day you can decide in about five days whether or not you should continue doing that behavior. Of course for a larger decision, perhaps focusing on your next promotion… you may need more time to implement the changes you determine. The point is to take time daily to assess how you are doing in fulfilling your new plan of action around your one change. Take time each night to review the day and honestly consider how well that day went given this newest change. Those insights will prove invaluable as you continue to tweak what works and what simply no longer supports you.
Once you are solidly on your way with your newest change, select another one and work on that. This is the “Repeat” step. One decision at a time you’ll find yourself improving your business and your life. Ultimately positive, and lasting change, comes from practice… practicing the new behaviors we want in our lives. Many have heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” However, in my life I have found that “Practice makes… comfortable.” Not everyone is going to be able to do everything to perfection. But, everyone can practice until new behaviors feel “comfortable”… and at that point, change can be lasting. Often the behaviors we’d previously practiced had simply become habits because we didn’t really think about whether those behaviors worked for us or against us. But when we commit to looking for lasting change, when we make decisions and stick to them… well, then we take control of our lives to keep making our best even better.
Jason W. Womack is the CEO of The Womack Company, an international training firm that helps busy professionals be more productive through coaching and consulting. He is co-founder of the Get Momentum Leadership Academy, author of Your Best Just Got Better (Wiley, 2012) and co-author with his wife, Jodi Womack, of Get Momentum: How To Start When You’re Stuck (Wiley, 2016). Since 2000 he has coached leaders across industries and trained them in the art of increasing their workplace productivity and achieving personal happiness.