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Getting back on course

A ship is off course 95% of the time it’s at sea.

Then you might ask, how the heck does it ever get to it’s destination?  The answer is simple: it constantly makes corrections to get back on track.  At first thought you might think that a ship travels from point A to point B via straight line, but that is so far from the case.  There are outside forces that push and pull the ship in directions that the captain didn’t intend for it to go.  Forces such as wind and currents, not to mention the storms and hurricanes that could knock a ship off course.  A smart captain will account for these trials at sea and make sure that once the storm has passed, he is again checking his charts to make sure that he gets back on course.  You could picture a ship traveling not in a straight line but in a zig-zag pattern to it’s destination and just like a ship, this is how most of us professionals travel to our destinations, or goals.

Rarely do we ever plot a course for our goals and it’s carried out exactly like we planned.  Those of you with little children know that planning on doing something is tough when you have certain variables vying for your attention.  But if this principle is understood then we don’t need to beat ourselves up over not being on course 100% of the time.  I hold myself to very high standards as I’m sure you do too, and I normal beat myself up when my plans don’t go the way I want, but I quickly realize that’s just me getting off course and I need to understand where I’m at and get back on track.

We normally view these zig-zags as negatives as if we are going backwards when actually we are just a little off course and we just need a little bit of adjustments to get back on track.  I recently had a “zig” in a project as a series of events prevented me from getting some easy work done.  If it wasn’t one thing it was another and it seemed that I couldn’t find the time to get this work done.  (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this.)  It wasn’t something urgent but it was something that I had planned for and kept getting push back.  Just when I was about to get started, something (or someone) would call for my attention and I’d have to get up and tend to that issue.  This work wasn’t like a meeting or anything where I would normally block off time but it just so happened that when I decided to work on it, I got interrupted.  I wanted my ship to go in one direction and the tide wanted to take me in another.  Once I realized this, I was able to get back on course by slicing up the work into smaller tasks, scheduling a chunk of time to get it done and getting this monkey off my back.  A small task turned into a huge ordeal just because of the life that was happening around me. The first thing you have to do is realize you are off track, then the rest is up to you on how to get back back.

Here are some things I use when I want to get back on track:

  • Do a Mind sweep – listing all the things that have your attention right now.  Fix the window, call Mom, Schedule a meeting with client…  Dump all of that onto a list and don’t stop until you have everything written down.  After you have that list written out, you usually find it’s not as impossible as you made it out to be.
  • Journal/ Talk to someone – similar to the mind sweep, this is a way to get your issues out in the open to give it a face or make it tangible.  When you verbalize something, it has to make sense otherwise you’d just be rambling.  But in your quest to make sense, the solution to your problem usually is right in front of you.
  • Buy a book – Sometimes reading helps me gain insights to what I need to do and some reading in that field will help stir up ideas or thoughts on adjustments that could be made to my current plan of action.
  • Take a trip – seems counter productive when you are planning on going somewhere else, but taking a side trip, or a pit stop might be just what the doctor ordered.  Enjoy your tangent off course and chalk it up to living in the moment.  Let everyone know (including yourself) that when we get back, it’s time to work.
  • Clean my desk – Something easy that could be done at anytime.  A clean workspace tends to help ideas flow better.  An uncluttered desk leads to an uncluttered brain.

Let me know what you do to get back on track.


Mind sweeping

Sometime life gets so complicated and so overwhelming that it’s hard to see which way is up.  You have responsibilities with the kids, with the family, with work, with 101 other things.  Here is a quick tip that I use anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Take out a pad and paper or any word processing program and start writing down everything that has your attention and why.  Start with the biggest thing on your mind and work down.  It doesn’t have to be a task that you have to accomplish, it could just be a feeling or a person you are dealing with, just put it down so that it covers the thought that is in your mind.  And be sure to write down “why” this thing has your attention.  Continue to list things until everything that is on your mind is written down.  Once you are done with everything that concerns you, ask yourself “is that it?”. Put down anything else that comes to mind.

The purpose of a mind sweep is to give you a tangible list of things to tackle.  I usually do this when I’m worrying about things or when I feel, “there are just too many things going on”.  I usually find out after writing there are just a few things going on that I’ve blown out of proportion.  Or after I’ve written the list, I find that there are things that are outside my control so why worry about them in the first place.

This list is a way to mentally check-in with yourself to see how you are doing and make sure you are on track.  Now that you have a list, you could plan, prioritize, and take action on those things and make your worries disappear.

The opposite of fear is not courage, it’s action.


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