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10 Ways to Reach Your Potential

December 17, 2012

Hydrate, define day’s top 3 priorities, schedule time rotation of projects and breaks, exercise, express gratitude and reflect daily. According to an article I saw recently, following these six rules lead to reaching your daily potential.

Although solid advice for some, we’re all unique, with different lives, schedules, requirements and minds. Laying out 6 structured rules may pose benefit, but most “this is how you reach your potential” articles fail to represent diverse minds and lives.

Let’s explore some universal insight and general thoughts on being productive and meeting our potential. We come to find productivity isn’t set and cannot always be structured. Nevertheless, I go against my word; you’ll find my top 10 tips below. (Don’t miss an important bonus tip at the end.)

While right-brained people are more task-oriented, they may benefit from structured routines and timed work agendas. Creative types, on the other side of the brain, have inspirational and productive spurts as their muse comes and goes.

No matter how you think or how you orient your work, we all must designate time and focus. If creative types only worked when inspiration struck, not much would get done. Simply devoting time and focus will result in productivity for all, as work gets done for task-managed and creatives hone their skills, develop abilities and find their muse through perseverance.

It’s hard to work when you’re racing to finish, as well as sloppy and stressful. Nevertheless, many of us find ourselves disorganized and hustling to meet deadlines, finish projects, be on time and in general, manage balance in life.

Foresight and preparation are our best tools to combat these common attributes. Yet we often end up falling behind. It’s like buying a loaf of fresh bread daily, but always eating the stale loaf bought the day before. It’s time to get on track and eat the fresh bread every day, so to say.

Reason and rationality tell us this, yet neither culture nor experience has persuasively taught us this vital lesson that distinguishes the calm and successful from the distressed, overworked and unproductive.

Here are two more leading societal examples:

  1. Healthcare operates reactively. Once you get sick, you get medicine. Preventive care is not emphasized or encouraged. While only a minority researches eating right, getting real food accessible to the public and basic preventive care to sustain robust health, mass money goes into research and development of treatments to ailments once they arise–why not put these resources into prevention?
  2. Climate change and environmental issues are yet another clear representation of reactionary approaches taken by society. Predicting environmental detriment caused by industrial business and agricultural practices is not unachievable, just lacks proper foresight, recognition, time and focus. Now we are faced with a mess harder to clean up than to prevent.

Much like our work lives, these situations create stress that decreases our potential and mental clarity necessary for productivity and balance in life. If we cannot readily change the status quo, we can learn from these examples and apply foresight to better meet our potential and productivity–in turn, select actions may even aid in straightening out the two examples above.

While some people can’t focus, others become too focused. At a point in either case, however, it is essential to stop thinking about what you’re doing or plan on doing in order to progress.

Overworking and routine can be avoided through diversification and purposeful pause.If you find a new favorite breakfast and start eating it everyday, in a month you may never want it again. While sabotaging this prolonged enjoyment isn’t a big deal, we don’t want to overdose on our work.

Burnout is dangerous and must be avoided at all costs, especially for creatives. If you’re doing something you love, doing it every day and thinking about it all the time, it feels great, but you must moderate the good.

Fully applying yourself all the time saturates and exhausts mind and body. While taking breaks help, sometimes it’s best to completely stop what you’re doing and devote time towards, for instance, researching how you can take you’re work to the next level. This way you escape what could prolong to a life-long routine and allow yourself to discover ways to diversify your work or advance simply by pausing to reflect.

Some already covered, some not, here’s my top 10 tips toward reaching your potential in a balanced life complete with mental and physical activity matched with nutrition:

  1. Hydrate every morning. Lemon water upon waking is most beneficial.
  2. Eat. A healthy breakfast, big or small sparks metabolism, fuels body and brain and balances mood. Incorporate snacks between meals if you like and eat meals–don’t work through pressing hunger.
  3. Set goals and achieve them. Whether daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or all, do what works and view them as interesting, attainable adventures. Productivity results best from daily goals, while long-term plans can put things in perspective to better your ability to formulate daily steps towards greater achievements.
  4. Devote time and focus. You’ll find your groove, give it time. Work will get done. As they say for writers: “Butt-in-chair.”
  5. Exercise. Physical activity–incorporate it into your day to stimulate body, get blood flowing, keep you healthy, agile and strong and boost your ability Can Do Club to focus on work. Mornings work well and start your day with energy and accomplishment.
  6. Keep a positive, can-do attitude. Belief in yourself and your abilities makes any task an achievable adventure–which any task is.
  7. Look ahead and plan. Foresight and planning are essential to balanced mind and organized productivity. You’ll also find more time for hobbies, relaxation and social, active, outdoor activities.
  8. Pause for progression. Break routine and stop working to brainstorm diversifying and/or advancing your work, while preventing burnout and bore. Don’t forget to take little daily breaks. For some, not taking too many little breaks is the barrier. If you’re one of them, refer back to number 4.
  9. Be grateful. Some keep journals, some take mental note. All efforts are met with leveled mind and increased happiness essential for reaching your potential.
  10. Reflect. At the end of the day, on what works and what doesn’t–10 minutes will do.

Bonus and most important–relax and do what drives you! Our culture is obsessed with productivity and efficiency to an unhealthy and illogical extent. If I can encourage anything over all, it’s to not take economic gain and task-oriented efficiency too seriously in life. It will drive you crazy and distressed, while counterproductive. Being radically different is increasingly rewarded and successful.

Pointers discussed are best matched by those doing what they love and/or those working towards sustainable betterment. If this isn’t you, refer to number 8, then apply the rest toward fitting into these categories and continue on to increase purpose and content.

Of course, we can’t all be so lucky, and don’t all want to be. If you work to live instead of live to work, that’s all right too. Just be sure to fully take advantage of the tradeoff!

Whatever you do in life, these should help you reach your potential. I’m interested to find out if you apply any of these tips to your ritual and what else you do, as well as what inhibits you.

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