For many, the last few months have been an exercise in patience, especially regarding career progress. So much has been placed on hold, stalled and canceled, that it can be tough to find traction and forward movement to reach your goals. Rather than let COVID-related delays get you down, use this time to invest in the one thing that will impact your career the most: yourself.
Here are five easy ways to make the one investment you’ll never regret:
1. Get clarity and alignment on your goals
What do you want? It’s the first question I ask my prospective clients because having clarity and specificity around your goals is essential to devising a plan to achieve them.
The best way to gain clarity is to slow down and reflect on what you want most. This can be surprisingly difficult, especially if you’ve wrestled with fear and insecurities about acknowledging your dreams or if you’ve never pushed the pause button on your busy life long enough to give yourself the space to do so.
Once you’re clear, you need to align your goals with an environment that supports them and helps you stay away from the things that can derail you. This starts with understanding how you’re spending your time and where and with whom you’re investing your attention. Ask yourself if this choice helps you move closer to your goals or prevents you from achieving them.
If the people in your world are holding you back from accomplishing what you need to do, let them go and find a new inner circle of those with positive energy which support your goals.
2. Dedicate time to reading
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, 27 percent of U.S. adults say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year. Contrast that with leaders like Bill Gates, who reads 50 books a year, or Mark Cuban, who reads three hours a day.
Research suggests reading has numerous benefits. Readers build their intellectual capacity to reason and solve problems, have better people skills, and possess a broader perspective, allowing them to envision multiple possibilities. Reading is also one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information and grants you access to insights outside your area of expertise, which can fuel creativity and innovation.
3. Learn to say no
Always saying yes can leave you exhausted, stressed, and time-poor, wondering why you’ve been busy but not productive.
Billionaire Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, believes that “the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
Notice that Buffett said almost everything. He is speaking to our ability to master decision-making and time management. He says we must choose, with intention, how to spend our time and then set boundaries to protect it. Since time is a limited and non-renewable resource, invest yours wisely by prioritizing and focusing your attention on what matters most.
4. Say yes to growth opportunities
Saying yes isn’t always bad. It invites collaboration, empowers and affirms others, and, more importantly, can help you grow.
If you wait until you feel ready to pursue an opportunity, chances are it’ll pass you by. Saying yes means that you’re open to moving past your comfort zone and embracing a new challenge. You naturally adopt a growth mindset by saying yes, leading with your curiosity.
Saying yes also creates an environment where it’s safe to try, fail, learn, and innovate. When you freely say yes, you become more risk-tolerant and encourage innovation by trying new things and using the successes and failures as learning opportunities.
5. Prioritize your wellbeing
Living in a world of “always-on” culture can wreak havoc on your wellbeing. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re having frequent headaches, are sick and tired (again), or unmotivated, those are all red flags that you need to take a break.
Encourage restorative slumber by maintaining a reasonable and consistent bedtime, limiting screen time, leaving your phone outside your bedroom, and keeping your bedroom’s temperature cool.
Nourish your body with proper nutrition and movement. Recharge your spirit through meditation, prayer, and reflection, by spending time in nature, and by visiting with friends and loved ones.
Learn to calm your nervous system when you’re upset by breathing profoundly and putting your hand on your heart, which releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel safe and connected.
Employ self-compassion, treating yourself the way you would a treasured friend by swapping self-criticism for supportive self-talk. Remember, the stories you tell yourself are the most important words you speak. Words have power, so choose them wisely and maintain a growth mindset to encourage progress.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Amy Blaschka’s Forbes page.