Are you on track for the year you want? Mid-year is a great time to pause and ask yourself some key questions that can help make sure the second half of the year is what you want it to be.
Mid-year questions for a good second half
If you’ve been listening to this show for awhile, you’ll know that milestones are important to me. Among other things, they're a great time to pause and think, to reassess and recalibrate.
Several significant dates and milestones occur in July. We in the United States celebrate our Independence Day, but July also holds many personal milestones for me, as well as the 4-year anniversary of The Productive Woman podcast and the upcoming 200th episode.
On top of that, we're also halfway through the year, which is a great time to do some thinking about what’s gotten us to where we are and where we want to go next.
If you want to do a full-blown mid-year review, you'll find tips and a step-by-step process for a mid-year review in episode 95.
But maybe you just want to do a quick check-in rather than a full review. In that case, sit down with your notebook or digital device and a cold beverage (or a warm one if you’re in the southern hemisphere), and consider these questions as you plan some next actions for the second half of the year.
(I’m thinking in terms of mid-year because we’re hitting July as this episode is being recorded, but these questions would be useful for any other milestones that come up such as your birthday, anniversary, upcoming retirement, etc. Any time is a good time to ask yourself questions like these.)
Q1. What are 2 or 3 highlights from the first half of the year?
It's important to look for ways to improve, but it's always best to start from a positive perspective. So instead of sitting down to think about what’s gone wrong, how we want to change, or how we can do better, let’s start from a positive point of view and think about the highlights from the first half of the year.
- What good things happened in the past six months, whether events or accomplishments or anything that made a good memory for you?
- Why are they highlights?
- How do you feel when you think about each of them?
- What can you do to feel that way again soon?
Some of my highlights include
- the birth of my 8th grandchild, Milo
- attending a wonderful writer’s conference at Mount Hermon
- a trip to California with Mike to attend a legal conference
- enjoying a writer’s retreat in Minnesota
Q2. What am I doing with my time?
We’re not good at realistically and objectively “remembering” how we spend our time. We tend to underestimate how much time we spend on TV, social media, etc. and overestimate how much productive work we actually do. The only way to get a reliable sense of it is to keep track of it for a period of time.
You can track your time the old-school way, using paper and pen. Simply use a notebook and write down what you did for how long throughout the day. Or use a printed chart that you can annotate or even color-code for the different types of activity. (See the Resources and Links section below for a link to a free downloadable copy of the tracking chart that I use for this purpose. There's also a link on the Resources page of the website.)
If you prefer to go digital . . . there's an app for that!. You can use the Notes app or Evernote on your phone to type or dictate quick notes about what you're doing when. I have aTimeLogger 2 installed on my iPhone – It can enter what you’re doing. I haven’t used it much, but it comes highly recommended by people I respect.
There are apps for your computer that will do the tracking for you. I have Rescue Time installed on my Mac. It tracks what I’m doing while I work, and has space to manually enter what I’m doing when I’m away from the computer.
For suggestions on other apps to automate tracking your activities, check out the Hubspot article on “The 13 Best Time Tracking Apps of 2018.” It lists paid and free options. You can also do an internet search for “tools for tracking your time” to find other articles listing and evaluating time tracking apps.
In addition to tracking your time for a day or a few days, take a look at your calendar for the past month or two and your to-do list for the past week or two to get a sense of how you’re using your time.
Ask yourself: Are you happy with how you’re spending your time? What is your overall feeling most of the time? Are you generally content? Satisfied? Anxious? Stressed? Frustrated?
If you’re not happy with how you spend your time, what would you like to change? Put another way: what needs to change in your daily time use in order to feel the way you want to feel? (Hint: It’s not somebody else’s actions. Our feelings are created by our own thoughts…)
- What's important to you but not reflected in your time-tracking?
- Are you spending more time on social media or TV than you feel good about?
- Are you working more than you want to, or spending less time with someone you love?
- Are your days too full to fit in time for your art or your spiritual growth or community participation or reading a good book or sleep?
- What is one small step you could take today to get your time use more in alignment with your values and priorities?
Q3. What progress have I made on the goals I set for myself this year?
Look at the goals you've set for the various areas of your life – professional, personal, physical (health), relationships, and ask yourself what progress you've made.
How do you feel about those results?
- Are you crushing it? Pat yourself on the back for the things you have accomplished.
- Have you stalled out on one of your goals, but you’re okay with it because you’re making good progress elsewhere? (It’s okay to decide not to do something, not to pursue a goal. We change over time; our interests and circumstances change.)
- Disappointed? If so, what are you going to do about it? What action are you going to take now to change that?
Didn’t set goals? It's not too late. You can set some goals now for the remainder of the year. Past episodes of The Productive Woman offer some help with the process of defining your goals:
- Episode 5 shares a step-by-step process for setting goals
- Episode 126, part of the Dream to Done series, talked about Turning a Dream to a Goal
Dream big, but set goals realistically. Don’t try to do a major life overhaul in the last half of the year. But ask yourself: What’s that one thing that's been on your mind–or those 2 or 3? What small step can you take today and tomorrow and then the next day to move in the direction of accomplishing them?
Q4. What is one thing I’d like to accomplish by the end of the year, and what needs to happen in order to accomplish it?
List all the steps (even questions). Don’t worry about ordering them. Just brainstorm
What resources do you need? Tools? Help? Information/knowledge? How can you get these resources?
Make that list and pick one thing to do something about it tomorrow…or today!
Q5. Who do I need to thank?
Who has contributed to your life in the past 6 months, helped lift your load or encouraged you or brightened your day? It’s easy to think about how grateful we are but never take the time to tell those people how much they've meant to us.
Another version of this question came up in episode 87 (13 Questions to Improve Your Productivity): Who is someone important to me I haven’t spent time with lately?
Q6. What action will I take on the things I've learned considering these questions?
Ask yourself this follow-up question after you’ve answered the first 5 questions. Then, pick one small thing and put it on your to-do list or calendar, then do it, today if possible.
There are other great questions to consider in episode 87 if you’d like some other ideas as you take some alone time and evaluate yourself.
What do you think?
Did any of these questions spark thoughts for you about the second half of the year? Are there other questions you ask yourself at milestone moments? Please share them in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Free time-tracking chart
- TPW Episode 5: A Step by Step Process for Setting Goals
- TPW Episode 87: 13 Questions to Improve Productivity
- TPW Episode 95: Doing a Mid-year Review
- TPW Episode 126: Turning a Dream to a Goal
Announcements & Reminders
- Giveaway!! To celebrate The Productive Woman podcast's 4-year “podiversary,” I'm doing a giveaway to thank the amazing women in the TPW community. The giveaway is open to women who listen to the podcast, no matter what country you're in. I'll be giving away a fun gift box filled with some of my favorite things, many of which you’ve heard me mention on the show. Jump into The Productive Woman Community Facebook group for the info about how to enter! I'll announce the winner at the end of July.
- Thank you to our long-time sponsor, Freshbooks! To claim your 30-day free trial of FreshBooks, visit FreshBooks.com/TPW and enter THE PRODUCTIVE WOMAN in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.
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