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Guest Opinion: Meaningful action helps refocus efforts


By Mandi McReynolds | Global community relations manager, Principal Financial Group Inc. 

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the decision to declutter our lives and focus our efforts on meaningful action. When we make the choice on what we want to focus on this year, it helps us simplify other areas to create time and energy to thrive. We can often stifle movement forward because we forget to create intentional space to achieve our desired focus. 

Below is a four-minute technique to support you in reclaiming focus:

1) The Focused Minute: If you could spend more time doing one thing this year, what would be it be? Write it down. It could be time to read more books, take on a new project, a stretch goal at work, or spending quality time with a loved one. Now you know why you want time. The decision to simplify another area of your life and save time just got easier.

2) The Reducing Minute: Spend one minute and pick one item off the list below or create your own option. What is one area where can you reduce the time it takes you to make decisions, decrease wasted time, or use your time more intentionally? Remember, even five minutes of saved time each day can give you 30 hours to put your efforts on your focus area. Go with your intuition and the one that catches your attention. Circle it, highlight it and move to the next step.

3) The Tell Someone Minute: Email your boss, text your partner or Snapchat your best friend. Let them know this is the area you plan to focus on during this year and how you plan to simplify your life to create energy for this area. Let them know you would like to schedule a time to talk with them about it. Keep the message short and simple. You do not need to go into detail about it now. Save that for conversation.

4) The Take Action Minute: Take a small action to move you forward in your decision. Make one standardized response, get off one email list and block your calendar to reduce your closet, or submit a request for PTO. Whatever you do, just act on your decision in this minute.

Need ideas for reducing decisions and gaining more time? Check out those on the list below:

1) Standardize Common Responses: Do you constantly need to send the same form to clients or set up meetings? Think how much time is wasted crafting these daily responses. A wise assistant once showed me how to set up multiple signatures with key messages for email. Now, click the signature needed and the response is ready to go. I only spend about one minute 
customizing the response. What responses can you standardize to gain time?

2) Ask for a Flexible Schedule: Can you save time by not having a longer commute if you come in earlier or later? Would working longer days earlier in the week open up time on Fridays?

3) Only Decision-Making Meetings: Try scheduling only 15- or 30-minute meetings. All meetings must be decision-focused.

4) Designate a TV-Free Night: Binge watching a little too much? Cut back one night.

5) Reduce Unneeded Email or Newsfeeds: Unsubscribe to at least three newsletters, group emails or media channels.

6) Make a Playlist for Timing Task: If you want to clean your house in 30 minutes, leave for work in the morning in 40 minutes, or only spend 15 minutes on email, make a playlist for that length of time. Once the songs are up, you know your time is up. Challenge yourself. Try to get the task done before the songs are done. If you make it, shorten the playlist.

7) Reduce closet to 30 items or fewer. Make the choices easier as to what to wear each day. Checkout Project 333 for ideas.

8) Simplify meal choices. The time to come up with these meals and develop a grocery list can consume your time each week. Automate the process. Write down 20 meals you enjoy and the items you need to make them. Now you have a rotation for five meals each week for a month. Grocery list is ready to go, not much thought is needed on what you are going to make for dinner, and you still have the variety to enjoy. No more losing time wandering through the store.

9) Narrow boards, committees or extra experiences: Look at your commitments for the year. Choose one or two commitments to scale back this year.

10) Commit to using all of your PTO. One of the biggest mistakes we make is not using the gift of paid time off. Look back at this past year; how much PTO did you not use? Can you commit now to use some of your PTO toward your new focus?

Mandi McReynolds is an award-winning author, educator and practitioner-scholar. McReynolds is the co-editor and co-author of the book “Diving Deep in Community Engagement: A Model for Professional Development.” She is the owner of Mandi McReynolds Consulting. She has spent her career building community relations and leadership programs at a Fortune 300 company, three different higher education institutions, and a statewide nonprofit. She received her B.A. in organizational communications from Cedarville University and M.S. in interdisciplinary studies, speech communication,women’s studies, and higher education from Iowa State University. She was named in 2015 to the Des Moines Business Record Forty Under 40 and is a 2015 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

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