What’s Christmas about for you? For me, under “normal” circumstances, it’s spending time with my family. Sadly though, this won’t happen this year. At least not as I had planned. But unusual times require unusual measures.
I’ll say it up front, it is for sure not my preferred way of spending Christmas, but it is way better than being miserable and lamenting about what isn’t possible.
We’ll have a video session with our son in New Zealand, light the Christmas tree candles and some other candles, and make it as Christmassy as possible. We’ll also “invite” my Mom for a Christmas coffee, her favorite afternoon break. We’ll meet some friends, in the US and Germany, for a “Happy Hour” and have our favorite drink together.
In short, I’m going to focus on what I can have and what gives me joy instead of the other way around.
Will there be sad moments? Of course. But reminding myself that there are a lot of positive things as well makes me feel so much better and Christmas so much brighter.
Sometimes we are faced with problems that seem insurmountable and far too big for us to tackle. We feel overwhelmed and we don’t have the slightest notion of what to do. Unfortunately, we have to deal with these problems or challenges if we want to or not.
It doesn’t really matter if these problems or challenges are business related or stem from your personal life. The way to cope with them remains the same. Here it is:
What is the single next thing you can do or action you can take?
Don’t think of the big picture for a moment, think only of the very next step that will give you more information, a clearer picture of what you are looking for, or any other kind of help. If you have taken this step, repeat.
The beauty of this approach is that since you are busy with finding answers to your next step you don’t have time to feel overwhelmed or to worry. With each step or action you take, you gain more information that will help you decide what your next step will be. And with each step taken, you get a little closer to your answer or solution or, in our case, our own home.
Here an example:
We bought our first house a couple of months ago. I found this to be a daunting undertaking, at least in the beginning. I had no clue about the process and felt quite overwhelmed thinking of the financial aspect and implications of it.
Here is how I climbed the mountain of questions:
My first step: I started talking with friends about purchasing a house. Whatever information I got, I collected in a folder. For example: tips when house hunting, terminology, questions to ask, things to keep in mind, contact information of people they worked with, you name it.
My next first step: I divided these pieces of information into categories: Financial, insurance, contacts, house criteria, and so on.
My next first step: scheduling a meeting with a mortgage provider to learn if we would get approval for a mortgage and the amount we would get approval for. There is no point in searching for a house if you don’t have the money to buy it, right?
My next first step: scheduling a meeting with our financial advisor to discuss various scenarios and ask questions about the long-term implications. This was one of the most important aspects for me considering that we are relatively “old” for buying our first home. This meant we had to dig up a lot of information and fill out forms. By doing so, we learned a lot but also added new questions to our list.
I’m sure you get my point.
Focus on the very next step, take it, and decide what your next step will be.
Do you take time at the end of the day to reflect on it? I do, (almost) every night. Most of the time I make some notes in my journal. I call it my Insights & Actions. I write down what I found hard and challenging, what I am happy about, what I struggled with, if it was a good day and why, or if there was something that I’m not so thrilled about and why.
For me it’s the key to learning and growing, both professionally and personally. Sometimes it’s a quick note to serve as a reminder. But sometimes it’s very specific.
Learning what worked and why is helpful to remember and to keep in my personal “toolbox.” Learning what didn’t work and why is helpful to avoid making the same mistake. It may not work right away, but reflecting on the good and/or bad brings it to your consciousness and gives you a choice: keep it, or lose it.
I’d like to invite you to do the same. Take a moment at the end of the day and ask yourself: what are the things that you found hard, you found easy, you are happy about, you are [fill the blank]. The insights you’ll gain are priceless.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Did I accomplish all I’ve put on my to-to list? If your answer is no, dig in deeper and ask why? What can you change?
At the end of a project you may want to ask what made this project go smoothly and why? Was it due to a person, a tool, preparation at the beginning…?
Or alternatively, why did I run into so many problems during this project? Were these problems preventable? What could I have done differently?
Did I take the time to read, relax, exercise, etc.? Your promises to yourself are important for your wellbeing. If you disregard them on a regular basis you may want to find out why and what you can do differently.
Or simple things like being more patient with your husband, kids, colleagues, friends also deserve recognition.
Tasks that pop up “unexpectedly.” Often these are tasks we’ve forgotten about or procrastinated over that “suddenly” reached their due date. It is something we hadn’t planned or even considered doing at a particular time or on a particular day.
Our instinctive reaction is to jump to the rescue at the expense of whatever we had planned to do instead.
Tasks that are on our to-do list forever. These tasks don’t move the needle of our success or progress in the right direction, but…. getting them off of our to-do list feels great, at least at the moment.
We think about these tasks as getting them “out of the way” and “finally off our to-do list” so that we can focus all our attention on the important work.
The caveat, by the time we are done with our busy work the day is over, and a feeling of dread sets in. Again, we haven’t done a shred of work that we know deep down to be far more important.
Tasks or actions that move us, our business or our relationship, or anything else for that matter, to the next level. These tasks follow one single purpose: deliberately following a goal and getting there.
These tasks are often scary, hard, challenging, something that may not come easy to us. We need effort, commitment, guts, trust in ourselves to do them. These are the tasks that, at the end of the day, allow us to grow, build confidence, make progress, create success, and find content and fulfillment.
No matter what we like to accomplish in any area of our lives, it’s the important work we need to focus on.
What is your important work today that moves the needle in the right direction?
Imagine this situation: A friend, family, or team member approaches you and asks you for a favor. It’s a small favor, you think. And without even thinking about it, you say yes.
A couple of minutes, sometimes a couple of hours, later you realize that this small favor is really cutting into your day more than you had bargained for. You start to move your own commitments and responsibilities around to make it all work. You’re angry, and you feel stressed. You wonder why you said yes in the first place.
How do you avoid this situation? Don’t say YES right away. Ask for a bit of time to consider your answer and give it later. This way you can check in with yourself and your calendar what impact this YES will have.