I can’t believe I haven’t posted here in almost 2 weeks! As I return to my usual schedule, it feels appropriate to touch upon a subject that has been rearing it’s ugly head in my life these days – barriers to achieving goals.
Perhaps it is because I have 3 young children under the age of 11 or maybe because I am still adjusting to life as a writer and consultant. Whatever maybe the reason, lately I have been encountering many barriers that have been preventing me from accomplishing my goals.
Image Credit: wwarby
I want to narrate the recent occurrences related to my personal goal of keeping my children engaged in educational and extracurricular activities.
My boys will begin a new academic year in September. They have been enjoying summer camp since July. We love the routine of camp. All I have to do is pack their lunch and drop them off, the staff at the camp handles the rest.
However, last week was anything but routine or predictable. My boys spent their entire week at home. We watched movies, read books and went out for frozen yogurt. It was a relaxing week for them albeit an unproductive one for me.
I am sure you can sympathize, especially if you are a parent. It is next to impossible to devote attention to any focused activity such as writing while simultaneously caring for children.
I have to admit I was very frustrated! My writing and consulting projects, not to mention meetings with clients came to an abrupt stop. I spent most of the day catering to their needs. I can’t help but think that with a little judicious planning I could have also achieved some tangible goals.
In hindsight it is easy to see that the root causes were procrastination and passive barriers.
Why We Procrastinate
One of my friends recently posted a humorous note on her Facebook wall. She confessed that she would rather be managing her large team than planning her three year old’s schedule.
If you are a parent of school age kids, you are probably juggling several things at any given time. Not only do kids have idiosyncrasies and routines of their own, but managing their educational needs requires research, planning and decision-making. In comparison, managing a project team is a walk in the park!
Being at the early stages of my consulting business, I have been trying to minimize summer expenses. I had enrolled my kids in a few paid programs and for the remainder of the time I was attempting to engage them on my own.
Since the entire process of finding a program – researching various options, comparing pros vs. cons, confirming availability, filling out paperwork and setting up payment – fell on my shoulders, I delayed until the week before I left for Portland. By the time I made the decision and completed the process, the camp was available for all weeks but two.
As it turned out when my boys were at home full time, I found it hard to focus on tasks. Children have different needs, different personalities and motivations. I came to the conclusion that my kids are best served by a program, one which provides a physical outlet for their energy while challenging their creativity.
If you are attempting any entrepreneurial ventures and wonder whether you can supervise your kids and manage your business at the same time, my answer is “NO!”.
Go ahead and spend the money; pay someone to make your life easier! Consider it an investment in their happiness and in your future.
I spent last week caring for my boys and I will be spending another week preparing them for school; two weeks of lost productivity that could have been prevented!
How I missed working last week! I would sit down to write, only to be interrupted time and again. I was blaming myself for procrastinating until I realized that I hadn’t been deferring what needed to be done. In fact I knew I needed to enroll my kids in a program to ensure their occupation and my freedom to work.
The problem was that I was unaware of my active and passive barriers to achieving goals.
Bottleneck of Barriers
When it comes to work, I seldom procrastinate. When you are working on tasks that harness your talents, working is indeed a pleasure!
However, I find that as an emerging entrepreneur, sometimes procrastination is inevitable. When I understood the psychology behind procrastination, it was easy to see why I delayed some tasks.
Neuroscientists have long known that majority of procrastinators are what are known are behavioral procrastinators. Most people procrastinate not because they want to delay doing what needs to be done but because they lack self-awareness.
- They are simply unable to perceive the barriers that are hindering them and
- They take no action to eliminate these barriers and get stuck.
I was surprised to read that most barriers arise not from others or from a lack of resources, but from within our environment or ourselves. These barriers are not lame excuses; they are obstacles that prevent us from advancing. We allow these barriers into our lives and we encourage them. It happens to the best of us and being aware of these barriers improves our chances of success. Even in the trivial things they distinguish the successful people from the unsuccessful ones.
Allow me to explain barriers further. They are of two kinds: active barriers and passive barriers.
Active barriers are physical things, such as needing to fill out paperwork to accomplish a goal. You may need to arrange childcare so that you can work, take a class or exercise. If these physical things are not completed they hinder progress.
Passive barriers are things that when absent prevent us from getting things done. Most behavioral procrastination arises from passive barriers. It might be as simple as lack of knowledge or a missing object (For ex., lack of running shoes) that cause us to put off doing something.
Assess and Eliminate Your Barriers
Once you realize that your procrastination is due to barriers in your environment, you can take action to reduce, delegate or eliminate them.
For every goal that you are trying to accomplish write down at least 2 instances where you failed or barriers that are stopping you. Now assess these barriers – are they caused by a lack of time, resources or support? If they are caused by a lack of time, you can adjust your schedule or delegate tasks. If they are caused by a lack of resources, you can purchase or acquire tools that will help. If they are caused by a lack of support – ask for assistance, hire help or question whether the task is worth doing.
- Unable to maintain a healthy diet? – Set a recurring calendar appointment to purchase fruits and vegetables every week. Carry small snacks in your backpack or purse for times when you get hungry. Maintain a food journal.
- Unable to exercise regularly? – Carry a pair of tennis shoes in your car trunk; walk during your lunch break. Put on some music while your doing housework and salsa while putting dishes away.
- Can’t keep up with checkups? – Set an annual schedule for checkups with your Primary Care Physician, Dentist, Optometrist or other Specialists. Set calendar reminders so that you will schedule these ahead of time. My husband and I tag team on dental appointments for our kids.
- Not saving on a regular basis – Set up automate transfer of funds from your checking to your savings account
- Spending too much – Use a personal financial tool such as Mint.com or Personal Capital to monitor expenditure and set alerts for various categories
- Unable to work on your aspirational goals every day – Apparently Google expects every employee to spend at least 20% of their time on projects that are of personal interest. Many popular products such as GMail have emerged from this policy. Why not follow Google’s lead and set aside 10 to 20% of your time to work on your goals? Block off Friday afternoons for taking courses or following up on that new idea.
- Lack of work life balance – On the other hand if it is all work and no play, why not cross a few things off your to do list this weekend? Take an afternoon off to visit the museum with your kids. Or plan an extra long lunch that includes a yoga class?
You may see a pattern emerge in terms of the barriers you encounter. You may be the kind of person who may be deterred by passive barriers or discouraged by active barriers.
By anticipating the barriers that are stopping you from progressing on your goals, you can take action and can get more things done.
Clearly it is important to me to make sure my children are involved in educational activities. Some of the barriers I face are an understanding of their evolving needs (one child has vowed never to take basketball again but that might change). I am also unaware of all the activities available to elementary school age kids in my area.
Since continued progress on my goals is dependent on placing my children in a good program, it is in my best interests to prevent any future procrastination. I can do so by
- Signing up for a website that lists all enrichment activities and programs in my area
- Setting up a calendar reminder to begin the process earlier next year
Use Barriers To Modify Your Habits
Once you become aware of your reasons for procrastination and the barriers in your environment, you can begin to use this knowledge to further your goals.
Not only can you get more done by planning ahead and removing obstacles, but also you can use barriers to your advantage to nip detrimental habits in the bud.
- Want everyone in your family to eat healthy? Don’t keep junk food in the house.
- Want to wake up early? Move your alarm clock to the end of the room. Plan a special morning activity that motivates your kids to wake up early (hint: hot chocolate works wonders).
- Want to read more? Use your TV’s auto shutdown function to turn it off promptly at 9 pm. Keep a stack of books handy.
Banish Barriers To Pursue Your Audacious Dreams
If I were to write a note to my younger self, the first thing I would warn her about is the tendency to create mental barriers when setting goals.
Some barriers are trivial, such as not having the right tools. These are the easiest to overcome.
The barriers that hurt our dreams the most are the passive ones. These passive barriers are lack of awareness, lack of knowledge or lack of confidence in ourselves. The more audacious the goal, the more your mind will try to resist and perceive barriers where none exist.
Remember that everyone faces barriers in achieving goals; however you don’t have to let the barriers stop you. You don’t have do this alone!
Whether it is making sure your children are enrolled in the most enriching educational program or setting yourself up for success as an entrepreneur, you can take a short cut. You can learn from the experience of others. You can learn from the seeds that others have planted before you!
Have you faced any barriers in pursuing your goals or dreams? Do you find yourself deterred by active barriers or passive barriers?