Whether we realize it or not, life happens.
Interruptions and obstacles crop up: an implosion in your side hustle disrupts your day job, or a big challenge at your day job necessitates skipping creative work for several weeks in a row. 3-6 months can go by and the next thing you know, you can’t remember the last time you spent real time on your dreams.
If this sounds familiar, it might be time to review what’s important to you and reset a plan to help you re-focus.
Highly recommend you sit down and put pen to paper. So if you’re in the car right now or on a jog, make a note to come back to this for another listen. When you set time aside to do some real reflection on this, you’re already starting the work to get back on track.
Here are 5 steps to get you back on track.
#1 Identify the Distractions That Keep You From Pursuing Your Dreams
There are endless distractions to keep us from chasing our dreams. From social media notifications to binge-watching TV shows, it’s no wonder we struggle to focus on what truly matters.
But don’t forget about those internal distractions too, like self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
But here’s the good news: you can take control and minimize those distractions.
- Start with the obvious. Make a list of things that aren’t serving you. You know the ones that I’m talking about so write the obvious ones down.
- Audit your calendar. If you organize your time with your calendar like I do, then a great reference point is to do an audit on where you’ve been spending your time. If you don’t, there are also many tools available that can help you with time audits that you can run for 1-2 weeks. What you find, you might be surprised.
- How do you procrastinate? Identify ways that you procrastinate. The times when you set time on your calendar to work on your project and you do anything else but.
- Ask for honest feedback. An outside opinion might give you a new perspective. Ask a friend or loved one who supports you and your dreams (this is important) where they think you might be spending time that’s not serving you.
Now that you have a short list of areas zapping your time, set boundaries for yourself and those around you.
Turn off the notifications and set aside specific times to check your phone or social media. And when it comes to those pesky internal distractions, practice self-care and positive self-talk. Keep it simple. Don’t try to do 100 things. Make a small commitment to one.
#2 Develop a System to Help You Stay Focused
In my book Creative Calling, I outlined 5 key techniques to stay focused. Some of these are obvious, but if you’re feeling yourself getting off track, it’s time to revisit these to see where you can get back to basics.
- Establish and Stick to a Daily Routine: I find it incredibly beneficial to create a daily routine and stick to it consistently. This helps train my brain to remain focused and productive during set periods of the day. I start my day with a morning routine that includes exercise, meditation, and journaling. This sets a positive tone for the rest of the day and helps me stay motivated.
- Break Tasks into Smaller, More Manageable Chunks: Facing a large project can be daunting and often leads to procrastination. To overcome this, I prefer to break tasks down into smaller, manageable chunks. This way, I can accomplish a series of smaller goals that lead to a more significant outcome. I prioritize each task, so I work on the most pressing one first.
- Minimize Distractions: With notifications popping up on dozens of devices, it’s easy to get derailed throughout the day. I’ve found turning off notifications and finding a quiet place to work to be incredibly helpful. When I need to focus on an item, I set aside a specific amount of time in which I’m laser-focused with zero distractions.
- Set Goals and Deadlines: Clear and defined goals are imperative in establishing success. I break down my ambitions into smaller, achievable milestones and set specific deadlines I need to achieve. Establishing clear targets makes the finish line attainable, plan-able yet challenging enough to spark engagement and willpower to exceed it.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique: The Pomodoro Technique is a game-changer for me. I work in 25-minute intervals, followed by a short break. This technique helps me stay fresh during long writing sessions while minimizing the risk of burnout. It also allows me to monitor productivity and detect any trends in my work patterns or habits that need adjustment.
#3 Find Ways to Motivate Yourself
Sometimes we all need a little push to get going on our goals, and that’s where motivation comes in. So if you’re feeling unmotivated or stuck, here are 4 go-to strategies to explore. Many of these I’ve done deeper dives on in other episodes or videos, so use this list to identify what’s holding you back, and then head to my blog for the show notes of this episode and you’ll find some direct links to resources.
- Rest. Are you getting enough sleep and self-care? If you are normally hard charging and find yourself unusually unmotivated, it might simply be time to rest. Listen to that and let that be a part of your process. In a recent podcast with Silicon Valley actress Amanda Crew, we go deep into this topic – the idea that we cannot (and should not try) to produce at peak performance 100% of the time. There are seasons to our life and career. Another quick shot in the arm is the episode called “Learn To Rest“.
- Find Your Why. If you’re feeling a little bit lost and overwhelmed, you might need to reconnect with your purpose. Remember your Why. Reconnect with your purpose and values. One of my favorite videos is a short conversation I had with Chris Guillebeau on finding your calling. He shares key overlapping areas that are the sweet spot for finding your purpose. Can’t recommend it enough, including his related book “Born for This“.
- Embrace Failures. We’ve talked a lot about failures on the show because even though it’s a REQUIRED part of the process, it still feels bad and we need to actively work on our mindset to “embrace the suck”. If you’re feeling a bit bruised from a string of losses, I want to point you to two things. 1) The episode called “Success is a Low Bar” is an 8 minute reminder to zoom out to the big picture 2) There’s a post on my instagram about Tim Ferriss’ Jar of Awesome. I’ll link it in the show notes. The idea is combat failure and bad days by remembering the small wins. Not only does it help you practice SEEING small wins, it helps you celebrate them too.
- Stay Curious. Cultivating a sense of curiosity and wonder can help you stay motivated. If you’re feeling stuck in the same-old routine, you might need to shake these up. Try seeking out new experiences. Say yes, when you normally would say no. Learn new skills. It reminds me of this quote from Wendy Copp “It’s easier to poke holes in an idea than think of ways to fill them. And it’s easier to focus on the 100 reasons you shouldn’t do something rather than the one reason you should.” A challenge you need is in my episode “100 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Try“. The punchline? Stop blocking yourself with 100 reasons why you can’t. Instead, try.
#4 Create an Accountability System
Creating an accountability system can be a game-changer when it comes to achieving your goals. It’s easy to start off with enthusiasm, but staying motivated can be tough when life gets in the way. First, voice your goals and dreams. Give them life with your attention AND intention. Make them real by sharing it with others.
That’s where having a support system of people who care about your progress can make all the difference. Find a group of individuals who will hold you accountable and provide that extra push when you need it. Whether it’s family, friends, or coworkers, having a team of supporters can help keep you accountable and motivated in achieving your goals.
Of course there are many other accountability systems such as documenting and publishing progress like a log or journal, using productivity tools such as tasks or time tracking, or setting deadlines with an objective.There’s nothing like signing up for a 5K that you haven’t started training for yet. (haha)
Whatever the method, the most effective are ones that are flexible but require some skin in the game. It’s embarrassing, it will cost you, you won’t get something you really want, etc. You know what motivates you, so pick your own carrot and get to work.
#5 Celebrate Achievements
Way too many of us (myself included) really suck at celebrating the wins. But here’s the thing, if we want to guard your dreams, then we must recognize that small wins build momentum and motivation and we’re going to need that to pull off our big dreams. Acknowledging our successes, no matter how small, helps us process and keep a positive mindset.
When we lift up our heads, we see the path more clearly. So make it a practice to not only take note of your wins, but reward yourself with something you enjoy – whether it’s a favorite meal, a new item for your home, or simply taking a break to indulge in a favorite activity.
Pursuing your dreams can be the most rewarding investment you make in yourself. Everyone has moments where they feel pulled away from pursuing their goals, but there are many ways you can redirect this energy and use it to motivate yourself.
Identifying distractions, creating a system to keep you focused, motivating yourself, creating an accountability system, and celebrating achievements are all actionable steps you can take toward guarding your time for your dreams.
Ultimately, remember that if life is taking over and your dreams are gathering dust, don’t get discouraged—instead build an action plan! Follow these steps and remember that it is always worth chasing after the things you care about most. Even on days when life gets wild and everything hits at once—there is something you can do to stay on track for success.