5 ways to take inspired action in tough times

Nov 23, 2020

If challenging times are a necessary catalyst for our growth and resilience, by anyone’s standards, we should all be in the best shape of our lives come 2021!

Woweee, it’s been a year. And my friends, it ain't over yet.  As we head into the final month of this tumultuous year, you may have a lot on your mind. And if you’re anything like me, the pressing issues, large and small, become overwhelming if you’re not careful.

So, careful we must be.  This moment is too important for us to miss a beat — we’re going to need every resource available to show up in our fullest, most badass capacity.

It’s time to show 2020 we’re not messing around!

How? By honing our focus on what matters to us and taking inspired, consistent action toward the change we want to see.

Now, I recognize this is easier said than done, so here are five ways you can find your focus, create a plan of action, and stay sane and happy(ish) in the process.

1) Train your brain

Have you ever noticed a tendency to focus all your attention on the negative things that happen? Seriously, nine great things can happen in a day, yet you obsess over the one thing that didn’t go so well. You’re not alone. In fact, there’s a term for it: negativity bias.

While this is completely human, it’s not very helpful when there’s purpose-driven work to be done. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Luckily, there are several tools that are proven to help focus the mind on the what’s going well, freeing you up to stay in positive motion.

My chosen method is journaling for 20 minutes as soon as I wake up.  I stream-of-conscious everything that’s on my mind onto the page and, in the process, make sense of it. It’s the most effective way I’ve found to let go of the crap that’s taking up space in my head. Another great way to train your brain to look for, and focus on, the good stuff is to keep a gratitude journal or listen to a guided gratitude meditation.

To do: Explore a method of training your brain to focus on the positive. Maybe your tool is meditation, talking to a therapist, walking with a friend, or playing piano. Consistency is key, so try a few things to see what works for you and do it daily.

2) Identify what’s most important to you

With so many equally important things demanding our attention right now, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed, or try to do everything and burn out.

You’re not going to be able to do everything this red-hot minute, so let’s figure out what matters most to you right now so you can create a workable plan.

To do:

  • List all the things that are important to you right now – from big-picture structural and societal challenges all the way to what’s going on in your business and the home front.
  • Rank them in order. This will be hard, like being forced to choose your favorite kid. Do it anyway.
  • Look for a common thread in your top choices. For example, does your focus fall on a more macro societal/community level? Or is it hyper-personal, centering on your family, kids, and business? Wherever you land, there’s no right or wrong answer or shame in this game — you are where you are.
  • Choose the top three and make those your focus for the next three months.

3) Identify how much bandwidth you have

OK, you’ve narrowed things down to three areas to focus on in the next three months. Now, unless you’ve figured out how to clone yourself (let me know if you have!) or can operate on 4 hours of sleep, it’s time to look at what’s already got on your plate and allocate your resources accordingly.

To do:

Ask yourself the following:

  • What am I already committed to?
  • How many of those things need to be done by me? What could be given to someone else? What could be…gasp…dropped altogether?
  • Where am I spending a lot of time for very little payoff? (This may be a client, friendship, or activity that takes more than it gives.)
  • Where do I need to say no?

4) Brainstorm actions

Now it’s time to fill in the blanks with actions you can take to keep your focus on these three things. For example, my primary areas of focus for the next three months are (1) kids/virtual schooling (2) supporting my clients (3) supporting activists and politicians dedicated to protecting ALL people and our democracy.  My action items include:

  • Creating a schedule with my husband, neighbors, and friends to support all of our kids.
  • Narrowing my business activity to serving the number of clients I know I can fully support and writing my newsletter. For the next few months, any other activities will be a bonus, not an expectation.
  • Subscribing to newsletters of civil rights/justice organizations and politicians who align with my values
  • Unsubscribing from fashion and beauty websites (I can’t help but get drawn in otherwise!)

5) Bundle your time

I’m a big fan of bundling my time.  For example, my client days are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesdays are content creation and marketing days, and Fridays are finance and admin days. Introductory calls are also on Tuesdays and Fridays. This helps me stay in the zone of that day. It also makes things much easier when I need to “find” time for a new opportunity or need.

To do: Look at the five areas of your business (value creation, value delivery, marketing, sales, finance/admin) and see how you might bundle your time so like activities live side-by-side. You’ll be amazed at how much this one action frees up your time and headspace.

I hope these ideas have helped you feel a little clearer about where and how to spend your valuable time and energy.

Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Sign up for her free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth, above.