Feel like you’ve still not got into your stride this year?

Still struggling with your motivation and drive this month? Finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things at work?

Feeling like your ‘get up and go’ for the year has already ‘got up and gone’? And we’re only at the end of January!

Try a little self-coaching to help refocus and clarify your direction and purpose, with my Top 5 Tips for getting yourself back on track at work for the rest of 2023:

Don’t ‘do’ anything…just think first

Before you launch into your plans for the future, let’s start with a look at the past. Specifically the recent past – and make sure you recognise all that you achieved in the last year.

Reflecting on the last year and reviewing all the successes you had, can be an uplifting experience. Recognising that even the areas that perhaps were a little disappointing provided you with valuable learning experiences, helps to put the previous year into perspective. So take a moment to list down and really enjoy the successes of your last year, your accomplishments and your wins. Think about what lessons you’ve learned as a result of anything that didn’t quite work out, then consciously let go of any disappointments so you set yourself up to start the new year afresh.

How do you eat an elephant?

It’s very easy to be so focused on what you’re doing – or not doing – in the here and now, that we forget to see that today is actually part of a bigger picture. Sometimes you need to raise your eyes and look up and ahead, in order to see how today fits into the grander scheme of the future.

I’m constantly encouraging managers to stretch their timeframes and develop a more strategic, longer term perspective on things. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re a manager in the workplace or not, being able to plan ahead is a key self-management skill. Don’t just look at what you need to do this week – stretch to look at what you want to achieve by the end of the year.

Setting a goal for where you’d like to be by the end of the year, then breaking that down into smaller, more manageable chunks and working out milestones during the year where you can check in on your own progress, makes targets more realistic and relevant. We all know you eat an elephant bit by bit…the same is true for our longer term, larger goals.

And whilst we’re on the subject, make sure those goals are your own – not someone else’s ideas of what your goals should be. Owning them as yours means they’ll be so much more meaningful to you and you’ll be more inclined to persist with them even when under pressure from other sources. It’s your life and therefore your goals need to align with your overall purpose, so start asking yourself:

What would you ideally like to be doing in 3 years time?

Where do you need to be by the end of this year to be on track with that?

What do you need to have done by the end of the quarter to be on track?

So what do you need to do this week to get started?

In the words of Lao Tzu, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Get your priorities sorted

Okay, so what really matters? Not what’s urgent, but what is actually important?

If something is urgent it’s normally time-related, deadline driven and, let’s be frank, we sometimes have to deliver to someone else’s ‘urgencies’ rather than our own.

On the other hand, something that’s important is arguably more related to why you do what you do, the bigger picture, a more meaningful task to you personally or professionally. It is, by definition, important for you to fulfil in order to stay on track for your bigger purpose and arguably, therefore, of greater priority.

Distinguishing between the two – weighing up the degree of importance v the degree of urgency and effectively prioritising what you need to do and when, can help you make sense of both an overbearing to-do list that seems to have no natural starting point and, conversely, an overbearing inertia to do anything.

Working out what is important and meaningful on a personal level – what really matters – may be best achieved by combining Tips 2 and 3. In what direction are you heading? Where do you picture yourself in future? Doing what? Feeling how? How would you define ‘success’ in your terms in your future?

Working out some answers in these areas can help us feel more focused. Focusing on that ideal point in the future, we can then identify steps to take in that desired direction. No matter how small those steps might be, if we feel we’re more in control of our own destiny we’ll more easily maintain our personal motivation and keep moving forward.

Find your flow at work

Still not sure what you’re doing; or why; or to what end goal? Maybe finding your flow will help.

What are you passionate about? What do you get so engrossed in that you lose track of time and everything else going on around you?

When we’re in ‘flow’ at work, time passes quickly because we’re so immersed in what we’re doing. The activity engages us completely, takes all our focus and energy because we’re fully involved and enjoying the challenge.

Achieving flow in our work helps us feel energised and that we’re living in the moment. It often happens when you’re doing something you enjoy and in which you are skilled. Something which challenges those little grey cells and requires concentration. It makes us more motivated, happier, fulfilled, focused and helps us regulate our emotions more effectively. It’s true – time flies when you’re having fun.

Recognising what creates flow for you and factoring more of those activities into your work life creates opportunities to experience a more positive, motivated state. And don’t we all want to feel like that in our work?

Be kind to yourself

Maybe it’s still just too difficult to clarify all these aims at this point. Maybe trying to define what you feel strongly drawn to, what feels meaningful and what will make you feel more fulfilled still feels nigh on impossible to define at this moment?

That’s okay. It’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to take time sitting in the space and waiting for clarity to appear. Sometimes our mind works best when we cut ourselves some slack.

Don’t berate yourself for being unsure. Often we need to sit with uncertainty, just wait in that unsure space – no matter how uncomfortable it might feel – in order for some clarity to emerge.

Nowadays, life is so full-on and many people measure their worth based on how busy they are. Taking time out from the busyness can feel uncomfortable, even unnerving. Yet sometimes living with the confusion, accepting it rather than fighting to get out of it, can ironically be more helpful in clarifying the route forwards. From the feeling of being in chaos, new possibilities have the room to emerge and different choices may reveal themselves.

Of course, it may not happen quickly. We may have to sit in that awkward space for some time. But it provides time to rethink and reassess what’s important in your life and work out what you want.

Setting yourself up for a successful year is about clearly understanding what your personal definition of a ‘successful year’ actually looks like. Defining your own vision of that is what will ultimately help you move forward in a way that really means something to you in 2023.

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