by Michelle Nickolaisen | Featured Contributor
We’re almost a third of the way through 2013 now (yikes! can anyone else not believe that?!); you’ve done your planning for the year, and you’ve got your home office set up for success, but you’ll probably run into some stumbling blocks when it comes to keeping your good planning habits going. It’s really easy to lose momentum when it comes to “maintenance” type tasks, especially if you aren’t a big nerd that enjoys the process of planning and prioritizing (like, uh, me).
So how do you keep your good habits on track, once you set them up?
You’ve probably heard of the concept of an accountability group or an accountability partner, and it’s such a common suggestion for a reason. If you need a little extra motivation from someone other than yourself (and let’s face it, we all do from time to time) then you might look into this – there’s several different ways you can do it:
- A paid mentorship. In paid mentorships or coaching programs, there’s almost always a level of accountability involved – your mentor is giving you homework, and you’re committing to do it before the next time you talk. Since you’re paying money for this, there’s an extra level of “skin in the game” that might make you more willing to actually do it as opposed to if it’s free advice, as well.
- A paid mastermind group. Pretty much the same situation as above, but with a group instead of one on one.
- Getting together with a colleague or group of colleagues. With one caveat: people that you get along with, and that you’re friends with is ideal – but you also want an individual or a group who will hold you to what you say. The problem with friendships combined with accountability is that if you don’t follow through, it can feel like a personal attack when someone points that out; in this situation it’s important to remember that you asked to have this person point it out to you when you failed to follow through.
There is an important piece of accountability that’s often missing, and that’s getting accountable to yourself before you start relying on others. If you don’t do that first, then all the accountability groups in the world won’t make a difference. Read more about getting accountable to yourself & how to start doing that here.
Positive rewards get a bad rap sometimes, but let’s face it – there’s definitely been times when I wouldn’t have been able to finish working on a project if I hadn’t had the promise of dark chocolate and a Doctor Who marathon at the end of it.
Clearly, you don’t want your rewards to be something unhealthy or cost-prohibitive – you’re an adult and you can probably choose an adequate reward without my help. Once you pick your reward, knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel can help to pull you through when you’d otherwise quit.
Make it impossible to not do it
This is the same concept of throwing out all your junk food when you change your eating habits. If it’s not around, you can’t be tempted by it unless you go out of your way to obtain it – which you might, but you’re much less likely to do so than if it’s just laying around your home. The idea is to make it easier for you to participate in the positive habit (in this case, doing regular check ins to plan and prioritize) than to not do it.
The best way to do this is to create a focused environment. A good start is to try going somewhere without internet access. You’ll also want to think about how to can remove other distractions (setting your phone on silent, for example). You probably know what you tend to use as distractions – my go-to is checking feedly or Facebook and getting sucked into a rabbit-hole of distraction via entertaining and/or informative links. Because of this, when I want to make sure something gets done, I’ll block Facebook using a tool like StayFocusd until whatever needs to get done is done.
Let’s say that you want to make sure you do your planning on a weekly basis. You’ve discovered that while meeting your accountability buddy in person is great for more general check ins (which you do about once a month now), it’s not so great for getting work done because you tend to talk to each other more than work. Instead, you text her to let her know that you’re headed to your favorite coffee shop to get some work done and tell her you’ll check back in an hour or two when you’re finished. You don’t bring your computer, just a notebook with all the information you need in it, and when you’re done figuring out what your three priorities are for this week & what you’ll be working on, you treat yourself to a caramel mocha – your favorite!
This example incorporates all three tips into one way to make it as easy as possible for example-you to stick to her chosen habits. And now you can plan a way to do this for yourself!
Get it Together Guru for Creative Entrepreneurs – Michelle Nickolaisen of Bombchelle Austin, TX
Michelle is a project + operations wrangler for creative businesses, who also writes & teaches about productivity, organization, & systems (that don’t suck) for creatives. She lives in Austin, TX with her Shiba Inu & loves Buffy, dark chocolate, and tacos. Find her on the web at Bombchelle, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
From Michelle’s site: “My name is Michelle, and I’m an expert at finding out how + why something works (and then putting that knowledge to usually-good use), being grade-A curious, & getting things Done with a capital-D. I work with with creatives who have an established business, who are ready to launch something new or who want to go in a new path, who tend to get stuck going from innovation into action. If you’re working with me, you can expect sass + laughter, fun surprises, and lots of action.”