(c) Gaye Wilson 2014

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

I’ve just come back from the Third Australasian Egyptology Conference, a three-day conference for scholars in the Australasian region to discuss recent research in Egyptology.

I met another independent scholar there, Elizabeth Bettles, and asked her how she keeps up her motivation to do Egyptology, given that she has no academic position.

Her answer was simple: it gives me a buzz.

For Elizabeth, whilst the work in the library is a necessary part of being an Egyptologist, or any scholar for that matter, it’s working in the field – excavating in the Dakhleh Oasis is her current dig project – that gives her the buzz to keep going, and to keep publishing in a discipline she loves.

It can be a lonely thing, being an independent scholar. You have to use your own funds to buy reference materials and equipment, to travel, to attend conferences and to do all the other things that an academic in a university or museum has access to as a matter of course. You have to motivate yourself in the midst of your day-to-day life, and in most cases, unrelated paid work, to go the extra mile and actually do research. You don’t have the regular contact with other minds that people working in your discipline have, and therefore your life tends to lack intellectual stimulation.

It’s HARD to work on your own. That’s why I am a dissertation coach. Working on your own requires intense concentration and fierce determination to succeed. It requires motivation, both external (going to excavations and conferences) and internal (doing the stuff that has to be done but is not quite as exciting).

In order to work on your own, in any endeavour, you need the following:

  • Motivation – a reason to be doing this.
  • A plan – a schedule of what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how it will be achieved.
  • Support – interaction with other people who will inspire and encourage you.
  • A routine – actually making the time to do the work.

Find your buzz. That will make the motivation so much easier.

So what’s your buzz? What motivates you, and how can you get your motivation back when it wavers?

2014© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, a new year is closing in fast.

What did you accomplish in 2013? Was it all you wanted it to be? Was it a disappointment? Was it awful or awesome?

Did you plan the year, or have New Year’s Resolutions, or did you just let it happen?

So how did that work out for you?

New Year’s Resolutions: good or bad?

There is a lot of literature on the internet about New Year’s Resolutions – how to make them, how to keep them, how many people break them. You can spend lots of money on the newest, latest ways of keeping your resolutions, but realistically, if you’ve failed to keep them in the past, you will likely fail to keep them in the future.

So what to do?

Every year, I make a list of actions I want to accomplish in the next 365 days. (I take a day off in leap years!) I type them up so that they look pretty or impressive or inviting, then print them out and stick them on my refrigerator so that I see them every day.

The fun part comes when I can ceremoniously, or joyously, or relievedly cross them off the list and write the date accomplished.

If I’m really organized, I replace last year’s list with the new year’s list. Sometimes I don’t get to do that – a friend came over last week and noticed my 2012 list on the fridge with some items still waiting to be crossed off. I could put them in the 2014 list, but then I wouldn’t get as much satisfaction when I cross them off if I think they are this year’s list.

Or I could look at 2012′s list and decide if the undone actions are still amongst my priorities. If not, I need to make the deliberate choice to let them go.

Note that the list is of actions, not resolutions. A resolution is not action. Action is action. Perhaps this is why New Year Resolutions don’t work. Perhaps it’s because they are only resolutions, with no actions attached.

Maybe.

If the list you look at every single day is a list of actions, how much easier is that to accomplish than a vague-sounding resolution?

This year I will lose weight.

This year I will save money.

This year I will change jobs.

This year I will go to the gym more.

Those aren’t actions. They are not even goals. They are a list of things you think you should do. They are the top level of decision making. What you need is a whole plan, a strategy, to accomplish all of those items on the list.

The hierarchy goes something like this:

  • Resolution – This year I will lose weight.
  • Goal – By December 31 I will weigh xxx pounds/kilos.
  • Strategy – Four-pronged attack on the goal: mindset, diet, exercise, accountability.
  • Take action

Know your what. Know your why. Know your how. Know your when.

2014

So what will make your 2014 better than your 2013?

What do you need in the next 12 months to make you happier, healthier, wealthier, more fulfilled than you were in 2013?

What do you need to do to make 2014 awesome?

May 2014 be all that you need it to be.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

Image by ilcoWhat could you do with one extra hour?

  • Sleep in?
  • Watch television?
  • Play a computer game?

Or could you

  • Read a book?
  • Walk the dog?
  • Write a letter?

How about:

  • Work on your business plan.
  • Write out your goals.
  • Have quality time with your family.

There are many activities you can do in an hour. An extra hour per day would allow you to do many extra activities, so it would be a good thing, right?

But where do extra hours come from?

Take a look at the first list above. These are activities that you could curtail to find an extra hour. These are passive activities. They are about being, rather than doing. They don’t necessarily have a purpose. They just are. They are often default actions when we are too lazy to do something constructive.

The second list contains active activities. Like the first list, they are ego-centric – centred around you. Unlike the first list, they have a purpose. You walk the dog so that both of you benefit from exercise. You read a book to relax or learn something. You write a letter to communicate with someone. These activities are about the present. They are good to fit into your day.

The third list is also an active list, but this one contains activities that are all about the future.

When was the last time you sat down and planned your future?

If you’re like most people, you haven’t. Most people drift through life and wonder why it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Those who revel in life and accomplish what they want in life are those who plan their future.

Victories are planned.

So, this week, to gain your victory, find an extra hour to do some planning.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

Image by PocketAces http://www.sxc.hu/photo/658728Yesterday I attended the annual Egyptology conference at the Australian Centre for Egyptology. As always, the atmosphere, the people, and above all, the images in the lectures, got me all fired up. I love Egyptology. I always have. That’s why I earned a PhD in the subject.

And I want to be in the discipline – badly.

But I haven’t yet published my PhD thesis. And I haven’t found the Access database programmer I need to set up the prosopographical database I want for further research (any database whizzes reading this post?).

And wanting something does not equate with having it. To have what you want, you need to make it happen. You need to do it.

Okay, what have I done in Egyptology in the seven years since I got the PhD?

Not a lot. A bit, but not a lot.

Why?

Because I’ve been dealing with other things. Since I graduated I have become a qualified coach, started a coaching and editing business, created seven websites, learned how to sew, earned qualifications in desktop publishing, small business management, leadership and frontline management, and started to learn my ninth foreign language. I’ve also been coping with other things like ill health, the need to earn money (I can’t get a job in Egyptology – there aren’t any available ones), dealing with parent illness and death, maintaining a house and garden, and simply … well, living. So I haven’t been idle – far from it – but I haven’t done much in one of my great passions, Egyptology, either.

So this year, when I attended the conference, I got enthused all over again, as I do every year. But this time it will be different. I will actually do something about it this year. This is how I’m going to do it.

Formulate a goal
I’m going to decide exactly what I will have accomplished in Egyptology by this time next year: my goal.

List all commitments
I’m going to make a list of all the projects I have on my plate, so that I know exactly what I am doing.

Decide the priority of those commitments
Making the list is the first step to seeing how much available time I have. Rather than allowing the list to just sit there, I also need to prioritise each commitment. Which ones need to be done first, in order to reach my five-year goals? Which ones can be done in the next three months? Which ones cannot be delayed?

Decide what to cut
If I have too many projects, I won’t be able to do justice to any of them. Or I will concentrate on one or two and the others will go by the wayside (that’s exactly what’s been happening with Egyptology for the past seven years). If I can’t do all the projects at the same time, I need to decide, according to my prioritised list (see above), which projects I will temporarily (or permanently – it does happen) drop in order to achieve something with a higher priority.

Figure out what I need to do to achieve my goal
There’s no point in starting a project without knowing what steps are required to complete it. For every goal you need to work out what you need to do, and in what order.

Decide how I am going to spend my time in order to achieve my goal
Making lists and prioritising them won’t get the jobs done. I actually have to do them. The only way to do them, apart from listing them in the first place, is to schedule them.

Enlist help
I need to tell other people what my goals are, and ask for their help. I can join an online goal setting club, or post my intentions on my blog (doing that now!). Hire a coach. Invite friends to create their own action schedules, and create a mastermind group to support all of us. I can join a 30-day or 100-day Challenge. However it’s done, I need support.

Do it!
So I’ve made a goal, listed what’s on my plate, prioritised my commitments, decided what to cut or pull back on, listed what needs to be done, scheduled actions and enlisted support. What’s left? Actually doing it. There’s no point in making all these lists and schedules if action does not happen. I can schedule by month, by week, by day. I’m going to make a loose list of items to accomplish in the next month, divide it into weeks, and then schedule only three major actions each day. Then I’m going to do those actions, come hell or high water.

So.

I want Egyptology in my life. I want to actually DO Egyptology, not just read about it or dream about it or sigh over it. So now I have to actually do something about it. Somehow I have to fit it into my schedule.

The tagline for my coaching website, PhDSuccess.com, says it all: “focus on the actions that will achieve your goals”.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

Image by Dora PeteI’m feeling guilty.

Why?

Let me count the ways.

  • Because I haven’t blogged for two weeks.
  • Because I haven’t replied to a lovely comment about my blog (thanks, Georganna!).
  • Because I haven’t finished updating one of my websites.
  • Because I didn’t do much last week.

Last week was a write off for me. I overdid it on Saturday, clearing a bit of my garage – it looks lovely! – and I paid for it in the following days. But I kept paying for it, not necessarily physically, but mentally and emotionally. I couldn’t motivate myself. I found myself doing, as I used to do, research on the internet that I knew I would probably never read (gotta schedule that in!). And I was kicking myself the entire time. I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t doing it.

Have you ever had a week like that? You feel worthless and useless and a complete idiot. You’re in a funk, you get depressed, you take it out on the people around you. You’re in a landscape of misery.

And you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually horrible.

So how do you get yourself out of that?

Most of my coaching clients have this problem at one time or another. I think most people do. There are several things you can do about it.

1. Stop beating yourself up about it.
Part of the horrible feeling is that you are beating yourself up for not doing what you think you should be doing. Beating yourself up leads to all sorts of awful things, including self-loathing, emotional eating and paralysis. Beating yourself up doesn’t work. It just makes you feel worse. So stop it, and do one of the items on the list below (these will also help you stop it).

2. Do something. Anything.
Sometimes the only thing that will get you out of a funk, whether it’s a depressive funk or a I-can’t-move-forward funk, is to do something. Anything. Take some sort of action. Get up and do some star jumps. Walk the dog. Scream. Eat ice cream.

3. Make a list.
Do you know what you should be doing or do you make it up as you go along? Lists are very helpful tools. Make a list of what you want to accomplish today or this week. Pick one item and do it, then cross it off the list. This can give you a huge boost. Don’t forget to pick another one and work on it!

4. Clear a space.
De-cluttering is liberating. It can also be messy, dirty and a lot of fun (see #10). Clear a space on your desk or your floor. Throw out papers you no longer need. Give old clothes, furniture and books to charity. You’ll feel a lot better, your space will be nicer, and you will have helped someone else (see #9).

5. Ask for help.
Talk to someone about what you’re feeling and what you’re doing (or not doing). Talk to a friend, a family member, a colleague, a coach. Ask them to help you get out of it. Ask them to support you in doing something productive. Set up a temporary accountability to them. Note: If you are continually doing nothing and feeling depressed and miserable, you may need professional help.

6. Do something completely different.
Change your situation radically by doing something that is not related to what you should be doing, or something that you don’t normally do. Jolt yourself into action.

7. Change your focus.
Sometimes all you need is to change what you are thinking about. Look at the problem in a different way. Say to yourself, okay, I’m currently doing this and feeling awful about it. What would happen if I did or thought this instead? Focus on something or someone else for a while. Pet your dog. Play with a child. Pick up a different project and make some progress on it.

8. Exercise.
Exercise induces chemicals in the brain that help with mood. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Ask a friend to go horse riding with you. Okay, it may not be what you should be doing, but it will make you feel better, and will elevate your mood. GET UP AND MOVE.

9. Help someone else.
Go down to the local soup kitchen and offer your services for an hour or two. Knit a blanket for the homeless. Visit a friend. Donate to charity (see #4). Helping someone else will take your mind off your own troubles, and when you return, they might not seem so insurmountable.

10. Have some fun.
What floats your boat? Reading? Going to a movie? Ten pin bowling? Hanging out with friends? Pick one simple activity that will give you some fun. It will lift your mood, get you away from your funk-place, and will give you a break.

11. Or you can wallow in your funk.

Your choice.

My chapter in Top Coaches Share their Action Strategies also gives some useful ideas on how to take action.

Guess what?

Now I’ve written a blog post, I feel better about myself. I’ve actually done something that’s on my list, I’ve taken action, I’ve cleared some clutter in my brain, and I’m ready to get back to doing what needs to be done.

See? It works!

where© Gaye Wilson, 2009

This blog talks about ways to win your victory, but so far it hasn’t talked about what your victory is.

What is your victory?

It is your goal, your desire, your dream, your fantasy. It’s what you want in life. It’s what you want to do or accomplish. It’s your current project. It’s what motivates you to get up in the morning. It’s that thing you’ve always wanted since you were a child.

It’s your reason for being.

Everyone has goals. Everyone has dreams. And everyone has projects. All of them are different, but all have a desired end result.

That’s your victory. Your desired end result.

So what is your desired end result? Do you want to lose weight? Learn a language? Complete a doctorate? Or do you simply want to clean up your garage or start a garden?

In order to win your victory, you first need to know what that victory will look like. How will you recognise it when you achieve it? What exactly is it that you want? What specifically is your desired result?

Once you know that, you also need to know how you will accomplish it. This means thinking about the steps you need to take. Break it down into doable actions. Think the process through, walk through it in your mind, on paper, with others, or using a project management program. Try not to miss any vital steps.

With your list of actions in hand, you can then set about completing those actions.

One last thing. You probably need to put a timeframe on it. I say probably, because not all victories are timebound. You might want to be happy – how does one put a timeframe on that?

So then what? You do it! And when you’ve completed all the tasks on your list of actions, voila! There’s your victory.

tcsbookI discuss plans and action strategies further in my chapter of Top Coaches Share Their Personal Action Strategies. You might like to click on the link and check out the book.

So, what’s your victory, and how do you plan to achieve it?

© Gaye Wilson 2008
What happens if you are working to a deadline, but there is no way you can meet it?

You have a couple of options:

  • contact the person who set the deadline and see if you can renegotiate it
  • enlist help

Maybe you can combine the two options.

Other ways you can enlist help are:

  • Brainstorm with a friend or your mastermind group how you can meet the deadline
  • Ask a process-oriented friend for ideas on how you can streamline what you are doing
  • Tell the people you work with that you need to stop talking or attending meetings until the project is done
  • Ask your family to do some of your chores, to give you more time to work on the project

The All Paths to Victory Strategy states that you do whatever it takes to achieve your goal. If that means you ask for additional help, then go for it!

 

© Gaye Wilson 2008
After reading a post about tracking jobs on David Seah’s productivity blog, I thought about how I schedule the actions I need to take. I’ve been thinking about the best ways to do things for some time, hence this blog, and am experimenting with different strategies.

The one I’ve come up with this week is the Corkboard Scheduler.

I had a corkboard sitting idle that I’d bought for something else. I had a bunch of square paper (9x9cm or 3.5×3.5 inches). I had pins. I had index cards. I put them all together, and came up with this:

Corkboard Scheduler

Across the top are six index cards. Each one has a label. The first one is a different colour than the rest, and it represents the jobs I want to work on This Week. The remaining index cards are categories of actions in my life. I was limited to only five categories by the size of the corkboard.

The idea was this: use one piece of paper (I’m going to call them note squares – they are about the size of a Post It note) per action. Write the name of the job/action on a note square. Pin the note square under the appropriate index card category. When I plan to work on the action on a particular note square, I unpin it from the category column, and pin it in the This Week column.

This looked good.

I found that in some cases I also wrote the date the action was due at the bottom of the note square. This gave me a deadline, and allowed me to see at a glance which actions needed to be put in the This Week column. I could also write the date the note square was written, so that I can track how long it’s been on the Scheduler. If it has been on the board for months, maybe the action does not need to be taken.

The advantage of this Corkboard Scheduler for the visual thinker is the ability to see at a glance what needs to be done, and in some cases, when. The note squares under each category tell me what projects are on my plate, the ones in the This Week column give me a visual nudge that I need to work those tasks into my time for this week.

The size of the corkboard I’m using limits the number of categories I can use, and the number of actions I can pin under each category. I can only use five categories and five actions in each category. This is fine, because that means that only the most important actions appear on the board. If I have too many, I won’t be able to focus on achieving each individual victory.

If, however, I find that I have more items that need to be recorded on the Corkboard Scheduler, I can use the other side for future projects.

I’m sure this is not a new idea, but I haven’t used it before, and I’m playing around with it to see how useful it is for me.

How have you used something like this?