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Work on Your Dreams without Feeling Overwhelmed

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I talk a lot about envisioning your goals and dreams for ten years from now. This is because while I like to live in the moment, I believe you can live best in the moment when you know who you want to be, what you want to do, and what you want to have in the future. I also know that if you’re not mindful of these things, ten years will still pass by - but without any direction. I know, you have kids to raise, dogs to walk, chores to do, a job, and relationships to nurture… So how do you manage your big dreams alongside daily life? 

Every single one of my clients struggles with this at one point or another, so know that you aren’t alone. Also know that any feelings of guilt (mom guilt, partner guilt, career guilt, etc.) are common as well. For some reason, women have been sold the idea that we can do it all; I’m here to tell you that not only do you not have to, but you shouldn’t. This is your life, and it should be amazing! You don’t need to ditch your responsibilities to achieve your goals, but you do need to shift your mindset and how you’re doing things to move toward what matters to you. These tips will help. 

10 Ways to Move Toward Your Dreams Faster (Without Guilt or Overwhelm)

  1. Clarify Your Goals & Strategy. This is the first thing we do in The Extraordinary Life Tribe group coaching program and it's vitally important. We spend a lot of time on it and we revisit your dreams over time. Once you know what you want to achieve and why, it’s easier to make decisions about what action steps you need to take, what you need to learn, and who you need to be to get there. 

Then, as you take action, you become even clearer on what direction you want to go in both the short-term and long-term. Last week I gave an example about how in college you have a curriculum plan. Clarifying your goals and strategies is like having a curriculum plan for your life! This is why I write down my ten dreams for ten years every day, along with what I need to do that day to get closer to them. It’s not only helpful in accomplishing my goals, but it’s also stimulating for my brain. Have you ever thought about how fun it would be to go back to college and be in that stimulating environment now that you're old enough to really appreciate it? And if you have gone back to college, good for you! 

It’s never too late to get excited about what lies ahead of us. So get excited about your dreams, write them down, and make a plan to get you there. 

  1. Focus on Your Top Priorities. Even though I have ten big dreams, it would be impossible to work on achieving all of them each day. Instead, choose no more than three big goals to work on at a time. If they’re really big, maybe only work on one. 

Once you've decided on what big goal you want to work on, break it into five milestones or steps that you need to take to get there. Then break each of those down again into smaller tasks. Doing this has many benefits: You get to cross things off a list (yay!), you don’t need to waste time wondering what to do next, and you have a step-by-step plan laid out in front of you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of your goals, this is an excellent exercise to put things in perspective and gives you small, actionable steps. 

  1. Schedule Time Blocks. We are very good at scheduling things into our lives that we have to do, like dentist appointments and vacations, but not so great at scheduling time to work on our dreams. It’s time to start! Make an appointment with yourself to work on some of your action steps, and write it in your calendar. Give yourself a good chunk of time, like two to four hours so you can finish what you set out to do. 

This works for any kind of goal, even relationship goals. You’re better off spending two hours of intentional time with someone than a full day where you’re distracted. For example, my husband and I both work from home. Yes, we're technically around each other all day, but that’s not the same as spending two hours going for a hike or dinner out together. It’s about quality time over quantity. 

  1. Say No. I’m in a program right now about focusing on using your mind to create a successful life. One of the principles we’re working on is building trust in ourselves that we’ll do what we say we’re going to do. An interesting idea that we discussed the other day is to consider whether we really want to do something before we commit to it. 

If you think about it, when we don’t achieve our goals it’s because we don’t follow through. And if you commit to something you don’t want to do, you probably won’t do it. When this happens, you break trust with yourself. Learning to trust yourself is so important to accomplishing your goals and dreams! 

So start by committing to what you really want to do, and saying “no” to what you don’t. As you follow through, you build trust with yourself and get closer to achieving the things you want.  

  1. Create Supportive Systems. When we create a system or structure that supports what we want, it’s easier to achieve it. This can look wildly different from one person to the next, depending on how you work best. 

For me, I have my list of three projects that I’m working on, along with the steps I need to take to finish it. On Sundays, I sit down with my planner and I write in all my appointments, the things I need to get done that week, and I schedule in time to work on my projects. Then each morning I write out a plan for the day, with time slots for each task. This has helped me because before I started doing this, I thought I could complete a lot more than was possible each day. Now I have a better idea of how long things take, and I feel better about accomplishing everything on my list for the day. 

Another supportive system that I use is co-working. I used to go to a local co-working space once or twice a week so that I could be around others and have focused time away from my home office. Since the pandemic, though, I’ve joined a few online co-working groups. We log onto Zoom and either talk or use the chat to say what we are going to do in that time. Then we mute ourselves and get to work. I love the accountability and the sense of comradery. It’s easier to flake on yourself than when others are expecting you to show up. 

Some other supportive systems you might use are setting timers, working out with a friend, working on specific tasks on specific days… I’d love to hear what works for you in the comments!

  1. Give Yourself a Reality Check. After a few weeks of using the tips above or trying new ways to work toward your goals, evaluate how it’s going. Are you doing tasks that don’t really need to be done? Are things taking longer than you expected? Is the system you’re using not working (or are you not using it correctly)? It’s important to be realistic about if what you’re doing is making a difference, because even efficient busy work is still busy work. 
  1. Delegate. You can delegate tasks across all areas of your life, and I highly recommend it! You may resist because you think you can do it better and faster, but is it worth your time? It’s better to let the kids do the dishes imperfectly than to do them yourself, for example. On the flip side, sometimes you should delegate things that someone else can do better than you or that you don’t want to do. 

If you’re so overwhelmed with your to-do list that you can’t focus on what’s really important to you, pass off some of the tasks. Remember the Pareto principle: 20% of your efforts should contribute to 80% of your results. If the tasks aren’t part of the 20% that’s moving your life forward, consider getting someone else to do it or not doing it at all. 

  1. Repeat your Success. When we do our session on productivity, I ask my coaching clients to think of a time in their life when they felt especially productive. What were they doing then? What strategies and techniques did they use that made them so effective and focused? Can they repeat that? Take some time to think about this, journal on it, and see if you can apply it to your life now. 

When I ask myself that question, my answer is that I felt most productive in college. I was working, going to school, and racing triathlons. Somehow, I got it all done and didn’t feel like I wasted much time at all. I socialized while I did the things that were important to me. And while I didn’t know about the Pareto principle then, you’d better believe that if I didn’t think a task was important, I didn’t do it. 

  1. Create Balance in Your Life. A balanced life doesn’t mean that you give equal time to each priority. Sometimes you’ll work more, play more, or spend more time on your relationships. That’s okay! Just remember that within your balanced life, you need to schedule time for personal activities with family, friends, your health, and for fun. These help to reduce stress, increase your energy, and make life more enjoyable. 

For example, this afternoon I'll stop work early to ride with my son and his mountain bike team. I committed to being one of the coaches, and this moves several of my life goals forward: It improves my fitness. I spend time with my son. I help kids be more active, especially the girls on the team. My stress level goes down and my energy level goes up. It's a win on at least five levels and is a great balance of all that I want in my life. 

  1. Close the Day Well. This means to end the day to help get you ready for the next. For work, this could mean tidying your desk and making notes for tomorrow, so your mind can rest and you’re ready to start the next day focused and prepared. At home, this could be cleaning the kitchen before bed and getting the coffee maker ready. If you work out in the morning or have to get up early for work, laying out everything you need the night before makes the next day go smoother. What can you do to end your day well, and set yourself up for success the next day? 

These ten tips will help you work on your dreams each day without feeling overwhelmed, though I don’t suggest trying them all at once! Try what seems easiest to you first, and let me know how it goes. And if you’d like to dive deeper into your dreams, The Extraordinary Life Tribe group coaching program is opening soon for 2022. It’s an amazing place to focus on your goals and dreams alongside a community that will support you in getting there.

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