I bought a new planner today.
No big deal, right? Well, you say that before knowing it was the 8th planner I've bought since this time last year (insert laughing-so-hard-you're-crying emoji).
It's like I seriously believe my struggle with daily discipline and productivity is the planner. That if I just had a better planner, well then, everything in my day would magically get done.
I have a hot pink one from Staples that was just so cute I couldn't resist. I have an enormous 15-tab laminated one that came with a pack of 1,800 stickers (yes, I thought the "do it now" sticker would get serious results). I have a smaller leather-bound one that would fit in my purse ("if I could just carry it with me"). And, oh so many more! My hall closet shelves are stuffed with these and all the other rejects.
$279.12 spent thus far on planners.
When we lack the motivation to work out, we think joining a new or different gym will help.
When we're feeling down about ourselves, we think buying new clothes will turn us around.
When we're feeling lonely, we pour a glass of wine or a stiff drink (of which I am drinking at this very moment...the irony).
We believe we need something externally, when in fact we may be in need of something internally. The lack comes from the inside, yet we think the solution is on the outside.
I need a new planner like I need a hole in my head. What I really need is a hefty dose of kick-in-the-pants to get motivated to finish whatever's on my to-do list.
You'll know you've fallen victim to this when you keep doing the external thing (trying new gyms, buying clothes, pouring wine, buying planners), and the internal thing remains.
Think about how this might show up at work.
You don't get the promotion you expected and you blame your boss. Or someone you manage has stopped coming to you for help and you think obviously they have a problem. Your big project is killed and you're sure it's the client's fault. Any situation that may need some internal reflection and yet you jump to an external cause.
It's time for some introspection.
The cause, dear friend, is more likely to be inside vs. outside. Let's start by asking a few questions:
What's not working for me?
I didn't get promoted. I bought my 8th planner. I shop every time I'm mad. My direct report isn't very open with me anymore.
What's a possible reason this is happening?
I didn't deliver on most of my annual goals. I continue to procrastinate my work. I want to feel better and shopping is my go-to. I raised my voice the last few times she spoke to me.
How can you take a different step forward?
I'll set up quarterly meetings with my boss to gauge my progress going into next year. I'll create an annual business plan that helps direct my monthly and daily activity. I'll find an alternate activity to do that doesn't plop me into a clothing store. I'll set up bi-weekly one-on-ones with my employee to give space for more open conversations.
Take some time to figure out what the need is.
And trust me, this isn't always easy. Especially if there's some pain or complicated emotions involved. If you take a moment to think about the situation and dig deeper on it's source and why it's happened, most likely you'll get better clarity on the solve. It's amazing what reflection does for self-awareness.
My new rule: Look inside first, buy planners second.
Always believe in better.