Making Yourself More Successful
What can you do to make yourself successful? What steps can you take to achieve more at work - and achieve more in life?
Limit Your Distractions
One of the best ideas I encountered in Ferris' book "The Four Hour Workweek" is setting time limits on your use of email. Don't check email the moment you arrive at work. Instead settle in, make a to do list and check your voice-mail. After you've taken care of the most urgent daily tasks, check your email. Then wait until several hours in the day to check your email again. Never sit by the computer and read every email as it arrives.
Turn off the instant messaging feature on your computer and dinging notification of a text message. Don't let your work be interrupted by random inquiries, most of which are unimportant. If someone needs to ask a question, let them send an email to be answered in due time. If it is truly urgent, they will walk over, call you or find someone local to solve the problem.
Put limits on internet surfing. Only surf the web for recreation on your work breaks or lunch break.
Don't Neglect Listening Skills
There is an old joke that when two seminars are held, one for public speaking and one for listening skills. Public speaking course: full. Listening skills course: empty but for the presenter.
Everyone wants to learn how to speak effectively, but the message is meaningless if no one will ever listen.
Listening to others improves your ability to understand them. You also gain greater buy-in to your own ideas when you listen to others. Use active listening techniques such as asking questions for clarification or deeper understanding. When you demonstrate that you've listened to what others have to say, they are more likely to listen to you.
Don't Ignore the Downside
A forgotten side of listening skills is listening to yourself. Instead of downplaying inner doubts, list these concerns. Then actively spell out ways to mitigate these risks. Don't push aside the good idea that came to you in the shower; write it down so you can think it over later.
Recognize the hidden messages behind what someone says. Negativity is not always bad. Negative comments may indicate a deeper problem that needs to be resolved. Someone saying "no" is not automatically a "downer"; this person may be pointing out flaws in your plan that should be corrected or risks you need to mitigate.
Create a "To Stop" List
Our society obsesses over "to do" lists. You can purchase apps and pre-printed pads to manage your to-do list. There are always things to do. We have advice columns on how to determine the top things to do and things we should strike off the list. There are even handy-man and errand running services that advertise as the solution to the "to do" list that never seems done.
However, you can make your life easier by creating a "to stop" list. What habits do you need to stop? Should you stop interrupting others during a conversation, so that you can listen more and ease the tension between yourself and coworkers? Do you need to stop checking work email in the evening, making your family feel like your second priority and letting your boss feel as if you are available 24x7? Do you need to stop volunteering for activities you hate simply because you worry that refusing will make you look bad? Create a list of things you need to stop doing. You find that it clears up the to-do list with a lot less work.
Invest in the Right Relationships
The most successful people invest in the right relationships. Surround yourself with people you consider to be successful or are models you with to emulate. Go to lunch with the top salespeople to learn how to be a better salesperson. Take your spouse to dinner with happily married couples so that you'll learn to improve your marriage, instead of going out with singletons who complain about their ex-partners. Attend financial seminars with successful business people instead of your broke friends. Ask those who have already achieved your dreams to mentor you, instead of chasing get rich quick schemes that only separate fools from their money.
Break off toxic relationships; be they lovers who never grow up into responsible partners, in-laws who can never respect your marriage's boundaries, friends who never repay debts and coworkers who use you as a confessional. In the case of toxic family members, set strict limits on the time and activities in which you will engage. You are morally obligated to check up on an aging parent; you are not required to spend every weekend in their home while they denigrate your spouse in your presence.
Take Care of Yourself
It is hard to consider yourself successful when you are in the hospital recovering from a heart attack or going through chemotherapy. Take the time to take care of yourself. Our society has warped the definition of taking care of yourself to include days at the spa and trips to the Caribbean. At its most basic and urgent level, you need to take care of your physical needs.
Take the 15 minutes each morning to brush and floss your teeth thoroughly so that you don't get cavities. Take two afternoons off each year to see the dentist, so that you don't miss a week due to a root canal and several crowns. Visit the doctor once a year to prevent conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Step away from the desk and go for a ten minute walk; the exercise will lower your stress and help keep your weight stable.
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