People ask me this question all the time: “How do you do it all?” I literally hear this at least once a day. It’s sometimes a little embarrassing to tell someone what all I do. To me, it’s normal to do all the things I do. And I do NOT mean that to brag at all. I assume everyone has their load to carry around just like me. But since people ask this a lot, I decided to write about it. I am a middle-aged mom of three children. I am an American who left for Germany over 20 years ago and learned a foreign language (and foreign culture) fluently. I have a Bachelor’s degree in German, a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and am currently working on a Master’s in psychology and hopefully a Doctorate or PhD later. I worked like crazy for six years in large management consultancies and advertising agencies and had my own translation business for nearly seven years. I am a certified yoga teacher. I worked for two years at a hospital center for psychotraumatology, and I also write and published a bunch of articles about mindfulness. I’m married, but my husband works in a far-away city during the week and I have no family around, leaving me a single mom during the week. And I forgot to mention something: everyone tells me I always seem to make it look easy with a smile on my face. So, how do I do it all? Good question! This frequent question inspired me to sketch out what factors contribute to my productivity and achievements. I’d like to share my tips with you!
I believe I can!
One of the most important factors that allow me to achieve what I have is that I believe I can. It’s very simple. I believe I can. I simply believe I can achieve the things I do. Honestly, this is the main key to my success. Experts call this “self-efficacy”. Self-efficacy is defined as “people's beliefs about their capabilities to produce effects”1. Believing yourself and really thinking you are capable to doing something is the first essential step in actually achieving that goal. My high school senior yearbook quote was “God never gives you a dream, without giving you the power to make it come true.” I don’t know who originally penned that quote, but I’ve always followed this motto. I can do anything I set my mind to. I believe if we can dream it, we can do it.
"The starting point of all achievement is desire." --Napoleon Hill
Quiet your inner critic!
This goes along the lines of believing you can do things. But it is slightly different. How many people do you know who, when approached with an idea, first start rattling off all the things that won’t work? So many people first start thinking about everything that could go wrong, as opposed to letting themselves dream about things going perfectly first. I always envision things working out perfectly, before I start thinking about risks. If I start out focused on all that could go wrong, I most likely won’t reach my goals. Don’t let yourself think about limitations until you get to the nitty-gritty of starting to set goals and objectives.
"Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable." --Theodore N. Vail
Manage your time wisely!
This is more boring than dreams and positivity, but absolutely essential to achieving success. I have three young children and a husband who is gone during the week. I live in a place where there is no childcare after 4pm. I have to manage my time wisely if I want to get anything done besides taking care of the kids, making sure laundry is done, and food is on the table. I tend to manage my time by the minute! That means, on any typical day, I drive the kids to school (there are no school buses where I live), get back by 8:30am, clean up the breakfast table, make a cup of coffee, and sit down to write (or study if I'm in the middle of a semester). I pretty much don’t get up for 3 hours, except for a short break. After three hours, I take a “break” to clean up, put in a load of laundry or fold a load, have something to eat, check my emails, etc. Or, if I have a work day (it varies), I fit things in where I can, and I literally squeeze it in. Speaking of emails: I try hard to stay away from the Internet. It is often difficult, but there is software out there that will block your computer from going online for a defined amount of time (I recommend the app called “Freedom”). If you absentmindedly try to get online during that blocked time, you can’t. It simply won’t work. Pretty handy! I have to be really tough on myself to manage my time wisely. But if you keep the goal in mind, know where you want to be at the end of the day, you can stay focused.
"The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them." --Denis Waitley
Ask anyone who knows me well; they’ll tell you I tend to live in the future tense. This is not so good for mindfulness, but extremely good for achieving your goals! I have always lived in the future. I have a very long-term vision of myself and of my life, and I try to reach that vision constantly. Having an ideal vision of yourself as, say, an 80 year-old, really helps on those days when you don’t feel like doing anything. My future life vision really keeps me going and highly motivated!
"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." --Winston Churchill
Good goal setting
Again, this is similar to living in the future, except it takes the whole vision even farther than simply daydreaming. I am a huge goal-setter. In fact, I live my life backwards. I start with my whole life vision and work backwards. I ask myself, if I want to be successful in my career, my relationships or my finances, what aspects of my life do I need to work on? Then I take each aspect and break those down into long-term, mid-term and short-term—even daily—goals. Everything is aligned with my long-term holistic life vision.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." --Steve Jobs
Take a break once in a while.
This one is the toughest for me. I have realized over the years, from experience, that you cannot sprint a marathon. If you want to achieve your goals in the long-term, you have to take care of yourself. You have to take a break once in a while. You have to reward yourself. It is absolutely important to your future success. Take care of your body, mind and spirit.
“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” --Deborah Day
Seek out inspiration!
I don’t like watching TV very much. In fact, I try to stay away from most of it. I’m not trying to sound intellectual; I just think that most shows on TV are not inspirational. What good does it do to watch crime series? I don’t want to put violence and negativity in my brain, because I know that it actually stays there. Whatever you are exposed to is registered in your brain and will stay there—whether consciously or unconsciously—forever. I choose to watch only programs that inspire or educate me. It is kind of like the fuel that keeps my fire going. I try to focus my energy on positive people and things. I want to read about great people who have achieved something in their lives. I want to read about new concepts being researched and about stories of people overcoming the greatest obstacles. It helps me stay centered and motivated.
"We become what we think about most of the time, and that's the strangest secret." --Earl Nightingale
This all might sound kind of boring to you. You might be asking, “What’s the point in living if you are not having fun?” But, seriously folks, who said I’m not having fun? I still like to have fun. I still goof off, watch comedies, act silly with my kids, play games, and chill out with a good book. I like to go to the beach and soak in the sun. I like to go out and have some wine and great food. Enjoyment is important. But what propels me forward is my life vision. My goals are my purpose in life. It is what keeps me alive, as opposed to merely existing. I hope my thoughts will inspire you!
I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want. - Muhammad Ali
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).
Quotes found on: http://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/100-motivational-quotes-that-will-inspire-you-to-succeed.html, written by Lolly Daskal