When You Feel Like You Should Have Achieved More…

We all have those big plans. When I have a couple of weeks off work I’ll sort out the junk cupboard. Over the Summer I’ll learn Italian. During lockdown I’ll write that book I’ve always wanted to. We plan to be oh so productive but plans often remain just plans.

For me, being at uni, I have a big chunk of time off each Summer. At the start of the break this year I sat down and planned out all the stuff I wanted to do, projects I wanted to start, things I could finish that I hadn’t had time to before. And whilst I have managed to achieve some of those things, I haven’t even got a quarter of the way through the list and I have 6 weeks left of a 4 month break!

If you’ve been feeling like this recently then this post is for you.

Why haven’t I achieved more?

We have a tendency to think we have more time than we actually do. We get excited by the prospect of free time and tend to think we can fill it with more than we actually can reasonably achieve. So take a moment, take stock and notice if this applies to you.

Sometimes we can find ourselves putting things off until ‘tomorrow’, that magical day that we never get around to. We can keep putting off a task because we don’t want to do it, we don’t know where to start or it just seems to hard. If this is the case, is the thing something you really have to do at all? If you’re not starting because it seems tough or too difficult then break it down into smaller steps and just focus on the first step, the task becomes a hell of a lot easier that way.

Other priorities can take over. Maybe we haven’t achieved the things we planned because other items became more urgent. Acknowledge the stuff you have achieved which you hadn’t necessarily set out to.

Unexpected events can happen and throw us off course. If this is the case for you, be kind to yourself. It’s ok to put things off to deal with the other stuff that life throws our way.

How can I turn things around?

Firstly, you shouldn’t feel you have to be constantly achieving. If this is you, feeling like you have to always be busy and doing something then I’d urge you to consider doing the opposite. Being productive just for the sake of doing something isn’t a good idea.

However, if you, like me, still have a little time left to get back on track and tick off some of the stuff you’d like to do (because it’ll bring you or someone else happiness or fulfilment), here’s some tips to get you going again.

Take a good look at your list.

What actually NEEDS to get done? If there are items which you don’t really need to do or don’t really want to do, can they come off?

What are the top 1, 2 or 3 items you’d like to achieve? Try not to set yourself too many tasks, really focus down and it’ll be easier to get them done!

How big are the tasks you want to achieve? Sometimes one task may actually be a huge project so just tackle that one thing and break it down into smaller tasks.

Plan it in.

Once you’ve got your list sorted, schedule in time to do whatever it is you want to get done. This can be writing it on the calendar, setting an alarm or reminder on your phone for a specific time. Whatever it may be to help you to remember to actually do the thing.

Hold yourself accountable.

If you know you’re a procrastinator and need to be held accountable to get something done then tell someone else. Let someone know what you’re doing and ask them to check in on your progress. If you’re able to, you can do this yourself by reflecting each day or week on what steps you’ve taken.

Celebrate the small steps.

We are likely to achieve more when we break tasks down into easier actions and take time to celebrate achieving each task. It can be enjoying ticking or crossing something off a list, it can be treating yourself with a glass of wine at the end of a very productive day. It can be telling a friend you did the thing you said you’d do.

Remember to schedule in down time.

We can over schedule the time we’re going to work on a project. There are different methods out there were you work solidly on a task for 20 minutes then have a 10 minute break and other systems. I personally know that I can only be productive and focus on a task for 1.5 hours maximum then I begin to lose it and stop making sense. So, I plan my work time around that giving my self breaks to refresh and recharge in between windows of productivity. Don’t over schedule yourself, you’ll achieve far less than if you take breaks!

Have fun.

Most importantly, make it fun. If it’s tackling cleaning that junk cupboard, throw some music on and sing your heart out while you do it. If it’s learning a language, try doing it with a friend so you can practice together. Whatever the task, enjoy it because life is to be enjoyed.

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