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Top 10 Tips for Keeping Your Life Moving

I had my last session for my last-but-one remaining coaching client yesterday, and he asked me what my Top Ten tips were to keep him on the “straight and narrow” in the future.

My answers were off the top of my head, but I think they are well worth repeating. So here are my top ten ways in which to keep your life moving in the direction you want.

  1. Be clear about what your major life goals are. You can’t have direction in your life unless you know what that direction is. So be clear where you are going in the major areas of your life, such as work, family, etc. Ideally you just want one goal in each life area.
  2. When you’ve decided what your major goals are, make a commitment to them. This consists of two parts: what you are going to do as a result of the commitment, and what you are going to stop doing as a result of the commitment. Of the two, the second is the more important and the one most frequently neglected.
  3. Decide what the ideal structure of your day, week and year would be, and go all out to get it into place. You can’t balance your life effectively without structure, and it’s no good having a structure which you can’t keep up in the long term.
  4. If you are starting a new business, remember that it must be financed properly. This includes working out what you need to live on during the two or three years before your business becomes profitable. During the first two or so years of a new business, you will put in a lot of work for very little immediate reward. If you are not prepared for this your business will almost certainly founder.
  5. Always work on identifying the key actions that are going to make the real difference. You can faff around being busy as much as you like, but being busy in itself is not what brings success. Success comes from focussing on the actions that are going to take you and your business forward.
  6. Keep moving. The biggest reason why people don’t get projects completed is because they fail to keep moving on them. A project is like a house plant. Water it daily and it will thrive. Neglect it and it will die.
  7. When you give yourself a specific amount of time to work on something, keep to the allotted time to the minute. Stopping dead leaves you wanting more. Trailing on until you run out of ooomph means you have run out of ooomph.
  8. Being able to estimate how long a project or a task is going to take is a very valuable skill, and one which very few people have. You can greatly improve your skills at this by writing down your estimate of how long you think a task or project will take, and then comparing your estimate with how long it actually does take.
  9. If you are having difficulty getting started on something, then focus on the first step. Make the first step small enough so that you can easily do it. Once you’ve taken the first step, then it’s much easier to keep going.
  10. Take time out to weed your commitments on a regular basis. Never forget that if you have more commitments than you can cope with, some of them (possibly all of them) are going to get done badly. If you take on a commitment which you don’t do properly, the time you do spend on it is wasted. You would be better off using that time on doing your most important commitments really well.

Reader Comments (17)

Does anyone have any tips for finding out/setting what your major life goals could be? How many life goals should you have? How do you decide what is a "major" life goal? Many thanks.
April 17, 2007 at 11:52 | Unregistered CommenterNicky Perryman
I found a good starting point for me was thinking about being at the end of my life, looking back. What achievements would you like to be looking back on? What things would you really regret not having done? Also remember goals can cover experiences or activities as well as more traditional achievements.

April 28, 2007 at 9:50 | Unregistered CommenterCarole
Doesnt so much of success come down to being deliberate about our lives?
Thinking before we do?
I'm struck by the concept Forster puts forth about creating distance between ourselves and our activity. My trick is to ask myself, "What would a really clever chap do right now?" Works pretty well...
June 13, 2007 at 0:00 | Unregistered CommenterMark M
I have a love-hate relationship with this idea that goal setting is vital in life.
I think it's equally important to be able to go with the flow of life, to be open to experiences that pop up along the way.
I became much better at being spontaneous in my thirties and my life has improved no end.
July 11, 2008 at 20:10 | Unregistered CommenterChris Beale
Hi Chris

Yes, I too find being spontaneous very valuable.

Right now I am trying to find the balance I want between useful structure and 'going with the flow' as you say. I think too little structure and there is a tendency to drift - letting life happen to you rather than making things happen. However, too much structure - or should that be too tight a structure - and the really important things in life like noticing all the things around you, smelling the roses, etc. get missed and they are the very things that make life sprititually fulfilling.

I like finding the balance between doing and being. As kids we seemed to manage this quite intuitively (well, I did as a kid but then I was lucky to have grown up in an era where you could spend all day outside with your mates not sitting inside on your PC or being watched by an adult all the time).

Have yet to find the answer but I think it's an important point you raise...
July 11, 2008 at 23:03 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
There's some more discussion about goalless living elsewhere on this site (use the Search box to find it).

I think one of the lessons I have learned in life is that it takes structure to be spontaneous. The best example I can think of is the difference between channel-surfing on the TV (which tends to leave one with the feeling that one has been wasting one's time) and watching a selected TV programme that you want to see (which tends to make you feel you have had an enjoyable experience).

July 12, 2008 at 16:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Think---what would i like to be --a writer --a clown --- etc.---then research the job ,career
Plan the finance---saving money ---before --you start the journey and each week whilst your getting there
Pick up the phone get the lessons
Meet the people
Travel to where its at---
Keep checking the finance
enjoy going for it
October 11, 2008 at 1:04 | Unregistered Commenterartdeco
For figuring out your true passion, I recommend "I could do anything, if I only knew what it was" by Barbara Sher. Just reading it won't do it, you've got to do the work.
October 21, 2009 at 20:52 | Unregistered CommenterZoe
My problem i sthat I plan a lot and implement maybe little or none at all....what do you suggest for such a rare and confusing case like mine ?
December 6, 2009 at 17:41 | Unregistered CommenterHotslings
thanks for the tips and for the grreat advices
January 30, 2011 at 23:59 | Unregistered CommenterAndre Moves
Keep to your long term goal and don't let people stop you, stay focused, take every opportunity you never know where it will lead you. Believe in yourself even if other people do not. Be strong and keep going. Look to yourself and within yourself.
September 17, 2011 at 6:28 | Unregistered Commenterkate
This is most excellent advice! #1 is valuable but often proved mindnumbing to me. I think some above commenters found likewise and focused on it. Nevertheless, I find items 5-10 are incisive and a practical starting point. Higher level thinking (1,2) can happen later. But the whole list feels excellent and especially the back half.
February 3, 2012 at 4:40 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I'm glad you dug this one up, Alan. I think I'd still agree with them though a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I wrote them. I was struck by how useful Beeminder would be with points 5, 6 and possibly 8.
February 3, 2012 at 10:21 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
On the other hand some of the best things happen with no goals and no plans. How tricky life is! Time for my Leonard Cohen album!
February 4, 2012 at 17:44 | Registered Commentermichael
Step #1 breaks step #9.
January 10, 2013 at 21:55 | Unregistered CommenterThea
I don't think step 1 breaks 9. 1 says be clear on life's goals. 9 says figure out what the next thing is to do. A lot of people can get completely stuck because they don't know all the steps in achieving goals so they burn energy trying to figure it out. Instead, just start with something you know. But without goals, your first steps are arbitrary. However, if you don't have ultimate goals in mind, start with more basic goals. Or start with immediate needs and think goals later.
January 23, 2013 at 21:36 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
If you don't know the answer to this question already, take as long as you need to search deep within for YOUR answer----If you had absolutely no fear of failure and no crippling self-consciousness, what goal would you be pursuing? Get a notebook and write it down in as real and concise terms as you can. Break it down into maybe twenty,or more small steps. Resolve to let no week pass that you don't achieve one of your steps,however small. Be brave! You will be very surprised what difference some focused work will achieve! Keep a strict weekly diary and write in what results you accomplished and plan how to overcome the next impediment. Above all, do not give up when you reach a tough spot--approach it another way? Good luck!° Sheila.
March 24, 2013 at 0:06 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

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