2016 was an action-packed year filled with change and surprises, with Brexit and the US elections at the top of the list. With these and other events dominating the headlines and our attention, who could blame us for getting distracted?

But in these times, that’s exactly when it matters most to stay focused.

In my own case there were seven strategies, tools and activities that helped me stay focused over the past year. As a result, I was more productive and achieved more success. These can also help you in your career and life in the year ahead.

If you want to do more, be better, and make the difference you are meant to make, then look through this list and see which ones make sense to adopt.

1. Expanding Your Network

Over the last two months, I’ve reached out to other experts who help people become more successful in their careers and develop as leaders. This was in preparation for a new event I’m putting together for January that helps you get the new year off to a great start (stay tuned!).

At first I thought I was just trying to fill in my roster of experts. But it’s turned into much more. In reaching out, I’ve opened up a series of new opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge and share support.

These new relationships will also benefit you in the coming months (again, stay tuned!).

I’m always expanding my network but, in this instance, I know it’s going to make next year an even better year, and make things even more fun.

How about you? Who could you reach out to and collaborate with? Who is complementary to you in terms of the products and services they offer? Who also serves your clients or customers?

2. Slowing Down the Frenzy of Activity

I’m a fan of taking action, but when it gets to the level of frenzied activity, it can be counterproductive.

For those of us who have a tendency to “do, do, do”, it can be useful to step back and be more thoughtful and conscious of what we’re choosing to do so we don’t just splash around, but we get to the other side of the pool.

In my case, it took breaking my foot to force me to slow down and be more planful as well as compassionate. When you’re in a wheelchair or on crutches, you learn quickly to prioritize, plan ahead, and drop all but what is most important. As an aside, that’s also why working mothers are so efficient at work – they need to be.

My big discovery is that in slowing down and being more relaxed about everything, I’ve been able to clear my mind and focus on the most important things. And being more relaxed about everything doesn’t mean you stop caring. It simply means letting go of the anxiety and perfectionism.

How would it serve you to go from frenzied activity to focused productivity? To shift from “doing” to “being” more of the time?

3. Sparking Joy

Using the litmus test of “does this spark joy?” makes decisions so much easier to make.

It’s also a goal of mine: to spark joy in my own day, and in others. I learned this from Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying”, which I highly recommend.

While the book is indeed about tidying your home, it’s the “life changing magic” aspect that is truly amazing. Her point is that you tidy by category and not by location. So instead of tidying your bedroom and then your office and so forth, you organize all your clothes first, then move on to another category such as books, then papers, etc.

Then you decide what you keep versus discard by holding up each item and determining whether or not it sparks joy. Yes, the litmus test is “does it spark joy?”! And if your item of clothing, or that book or whatever, doesn’t spark joy, then you thank it for the service it has provided in the past and throw it out.

I’ve found that the same strategy applies to how we choose to spend our time and energy in our work lives. It provides a level of focus on what’s important that is hard to replicate when you solely rely on an intellectual approach to choosing how to spend your valuable time.

What would happen if you used the concept of “what sparks joy” to your decisions?

4. Having a Game Plan

I’ve become a fan of setting “90-day sprints” for myself. That’s where I take my longer-term goals and break them down into shorter, more manageable chunks. In this case, 90 days.

I’ve been using the Self Journal, which provides a great format for tracking my progress toward long-term goals on a daily, weekly and quarterly basis. This really helps me stay focused on the most important objectives.

Being able to see my long-term, medium-term and immediate goals at a glance is a powerful way to be more focused and productive. The key is to look at it every day.

The bottom line is that having a Game Plan is vital for success, and it’s an important component I teach in my Accelerate Your Career program (if you want to know when enrollment re-opens in 2017 then you can get on the waiting list to be notified).

What’s your game plan? And your mechanism for keeping track of your progress toward your plan?

5. Executing Efficiently

Thanks to productivity expert, Chris Winfield, I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique (via Kanban Flow) to help me get things done more efficiently and effectively. That’s where you spend 25 minutes totally focused on the task at hand, and then take a 5 minute break.

It’s helped me reduce both procrastination and perfectionism. Or, said another way, knowing when to stop is as important as getting started, and the Pomodoro technique helps me do both.

How do you keep on track of all your to-do’s? How do you make sure you’re spending the right amount of time on the right activities?

6. Showing Up

To quote Woody Allen, “80% of success is showing up.”

In my case, it was entering a competition that I didn’t think I could win. The grand prize was a beautiful red Ferarri F430, and the runner-up prize was a two-day Mastermind Retreat in Colorado.

But by entering it, I got my product launched and learned a ton. Plus, I ended up being one of the 10 finalists, speaking in front of 800 people, and winning the runner-up prize!

Without it, I would probably still be waiting to perfect my offering and waiting until I had everything lined up perfectly. Which would have been a mistake, because I would have missed all that great learning which I will apply to my next launch. And you can’t have your next launch until you’ve done your first one.

What’s your equivalent situation where you will benefit from showing up, even if you’re afraid and you think it’s a super long-shot and you’re not quite ready?

7. Talking to Yourself (a.k.a. Self-Talk)

One of the many books I read this year was “What To Say When You Talk to Your Self” by Shad Helmstetter. I’ve learned that what you say to yourself matters. A lot.

When you have the right self-talk on your side, you can achieve unlimited things. It’s a huge confidence booster and that’s what drives success.

To what extent is your self-talk sabotaging you, and how great would your life be if you adopted a better version?

What Will Move the Needle For You?

These are seven strategies that helped move the needle for me in 2016, and they will serve me well in the new year.

What I’m wondering is what will move the needle for you in the new year?

Pick one or two of these strategies and try them for yourself. And use them in good health.

So two questions for you:

  • What did you learn from the year just past that will stand you in good stead in the year ahead?
  • Which of these seven strategies will you work on?

Leave a comment and let me know.

And in the meantime, I wish you and your loved ones a joyful, prosperous and healthy new year ahead.