Staying on track.

Staying on Track

Time to Thrive, Part 3

By Andrea Jacques

If you’ve followed the advice in parts one and two of this series, you’ve picked your focus and made a proper plan. You’ve probably even started executing it. Despite this focus and organization, however, you’re eventually going to run into frustrations. Why? The only sure thing about any plan is that it isn’t going to go according to plan!

This doesn’t mean that there’s no point in making one to begin with. The process of writing out your plan, assigning timelines, and putting it into your schedule forces you to think about it in a way that makes you more likely – and better equipped – to follow through.

When plans inevitably go awry, people mistakenly assume that there’s something about them that’s caused their plan to “fail”. They’re only partially right. What really derails them is their is unrealistic expectations. Modern culture venerates the idea of the self-made person, so most people try to do things on their own. They believe, at some level, that getting help from others somehow makes their achievements less noteworthy. The more the vision you are working towards matters to you – and the world – the more this myth sets you up for failure.

This is where the third element of finding the time to thrive comes into play. You need external tools, resources and support in place to stay on track. Think of it this way: When you have crooked teeth, you put on braces to apply pressure to keep moving them towards your desired state. There is no shame in wanting or needing external tools and support, but people often deny themselves this support because they think they “should” have everything they need within themselves. This is simply not true. Here are a few of the key external “braces” all those people with great “willpower” actually use to get things done that matter:

  1. Expectations. For most people, setting a goal for themselves is not enough. They need external accountability. When you consider how we’re socialized at school and work, this makes sense. We’re used to “doing what we’re told”, hitting externally imposed deadlines, and delivering on what we’ve promised to others. We’re not so used to delivering on the promises we make to ourselves. Contrary to popular belief, the solution isn’t to have more willpower. It’s to create an environment where you have no choice but to do what you’ve said you’re going to do. Here are a few different ways you could do this:
    • Enter a contest or competition that has a deadline.
    • Hire a coach or consultant to help you set your own deadlines and to hold you accountable for meeting them.
    • Promise something to your boss.
    • Make a bet with a friend — or an enemy! (This was a key factor in publishing my first book, Wabi-Sabi Wisdom)

    There’s no one solution that works for everyone. For some, the stress of a deadline might be too much. Perhaps for them, the slow steady support of a regular writers group or monthly mastermind might be enough. Figure out what works for you and put it in place.

  2. Expertise. No matter how smart you are, you’ll get to a point where you hit the limits of your own knowledge. Online resources are making it easier than ever to educate yourself, but don’t underestimate the value of tapping into live experts in real time. Whether you pay for this expertise or mine your network to get it for free, expert advice is often required to customize generic knowledge to your situation and get you unstuck.
  3. Emotional Encouragement. Expertise and accountability alone are not enough. When you’re working on something that is truly important to you, you’re bound to get discouraged, face moments of doubt, and wonder if you are up to the task. These are the times you need someone there to say “You’re amazing. I believe in you. You’ll figure it out.” They don’t need to have any expertise, but I’ve found that this type of emotional support carries more weight if it comes from someone whose opinion, character, integrity and/or intelligence you trust in another area. Why? Because if you don’t believe in them, you won’t trust their high opinion of you.
  4. Environment. The final area of your support system to consider is your physical environment, systems and tools. Creating efficiency, removing distractions and being organized helps you be optimally effective in the time you set aside for your important projects. Check into online project and task management systems like and, create filing systems to stay organized, and make your environment comfortable and quiet enough to focus.
    But don’t get so caught up in organizing that you don’t have any time left to do the work you need to do. And don’t make an imperfect environment the excuse for not doing being productive. Get curious about how much time you spend “getting ready to do” vs. doing! No judgment here – I’m totally guilty of this at times. When I catch myself in this mode, I use the Pomodoro method to set a timer for 25-minute periods where I can’t do anything other than my chosen task until the timer rings. After a few of these timed sessions, I usually get in the groove and am able to stay focused without it.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating the right support systems to help you use your time to thrive. It takes some trial and error. But each time you figure out another element of your ideal support framework, it gets a bit easier to create the life you want and make an impact in the world.

Comments are closed.