Op-Ed

If you do not know what is important to you, you will spend time doing what is not

“Any act often repeated soon forms a habit; and habit allowed, steadily gains in strength – at first it may be but as a spider’s web, easily broken through, but if not resisted it soon binds us with chains of steel.” – Tryon Edwards

Roy Disney said, “When values are clear, decisions are easy.” Knowing our values helps us frame what not to do, which I believe may be more critical to our performance. In this article I will teach you how to clarify your values and help you move on from thought to behavior to habit.

We are all what our habits make us and what better work can we do for those committed to us than to see that these right habits are formed?

To develop daily disciplines, we must create an ecosystem for a more effective use of our time. We create this ecosystem by focusing on three main practices: clarifying our values, blocking out time and forming habits.

Clarify your values

Our personal values are our convictions regarding what we believe is important and desirable. In the book, First Things First, by author Stephen Covey, the author cautions that our principles must contain more than self-centered values such as self-respect or a sense of accomplishment, because they can push us to develop arrogant, utilitarian relationships with others. Covey continues that we should develop core values that are more holistic and anchored in the fundamental realities of nature and healthy social relationships (in his term, “The law of the farm”).

Clarify your values by taking time to reflect on what is truly most important to you and writing those things down. I suggest a comprehensive list should be attempted at first and then returned to after a few days to allow for mental incubation. By clarifying and applying our values, we will do a better job managing our time and we will have greater integrity and credibility.

Blocking out time

To create rhythm and routine is to decide in advance what your day and week will look like and then discipline yourself to live accordingly with the time allocated – time management.

Time management is about managing and executing choices (you are actively doing this as you read this and my other articles which can be found on www.eliotkelly.co.uk). You are making decisions about what to focus on, what the words you are reading mean to you and hopefully determining the necessary action/s you should take. Each day consists of 1440 minutes which can be broken into four distinct elements:

The essentials: These are the absolute basics necessary for you to exist, for example, exercise, rest, sleeping and bodily functions, etc.

Your work: This consists of anything you are prepared to do to maintain or achieve your desired standard of living. These may include different types of labor/tasks, paid employment, domestic chores, or even personal chores etc.

Free time: Time that you get to choose how to use.

Wasted time: Time wasted on distractions or low value activities. On reflection, these items could be stopped, ignored, or outsourced.

Whether it is in the context of a day, month, year or a lifetime, the same principle applies: The time that you spend in each element, dictates how much time is left for the others.

Forming habits

Harnessing the power of habits is a great way to pursue success. Committing to habits supports our ability to block out time and clarify what is important to us. Habits also allow us to free up brain capacity to make better decisions, do our best work and stay on track when we face inevitable challenges and obstacles. Habits determine our chances of success.

I have developed my courses, books and seminars with an underlying focus on positive habit formation towards the achievement of goals. Customer testimonials via emails, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has made it clear that this is what our clients want and need to improve their lives. I speak to hundreds of salaried employees and aspiring entrepreneurs who have never been formally introduced to the skills of goal setting and goal achievement. I believe that optimal results are realized only when these two strategic skills are used together correctly.

Most of us can clearly understand that good habits are better than bad habits and yet there is still a clear gap between intention-to-act and action. Creating plans and taking insufficient action is futile. Taking massive action without a plan could also lead to huge losses and catastrophe. If you and I want to achieve our dreams, we need to start by changing our habits.

• Eliot Kelly is recognized as a serial entrepreneur, business coach and mentor and has been featured on CNN, BBC Three’s Be Your Own Boss and an extensive list of magazines and articles. His four books have been translated in over seven languages and are sold in 29 countries, recently being shortlisted for Best Self-Help and Best Advice Books 2019 by The Author Academy. www.eliotkelly.co.uk, info@eliotkelly.co.uk.

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