In conducting work-life balance workshops I meet many people who see the need to bring about a change in their lives and working practices. The things people wish to change are various and unique to their particular circumstance. These can include – better time management, effective prioritisation, improved decision making, concentrating more on important rather than simply urgent issues, saving more time, learning how to better handle pressure, devoting more time to family life or other interests and pursuits.
No matter what it is that people decide to change they all face one issue in common, which is how to actually bring about a change in habits and working practices? We are all creatures of habit, and when I make return visits, it’s not uncommon to meet people who, despite having every good intention, have simply not been able to follow through and make the simple changes that could dramatically improve their work-life balance.
Understanding the need for a change is one thing. Putting it into effect is quite another as anyone who has not been able to keep up a new year’s resolution will attest. So what are the keys to making a successful development plan?
- Be clear about the reasons for the intended change and remind yourself regularly about why you want to do it. The first hurdle is self-motivation, and it does come simply because one day you think something is a good idea. It has to be worked for. If you want to change something, you need to remind yourself at least weekly as to why and the benefits it will bring.
- Keep it simple. One small change that you can effectively make is better than a grand plan that has little chance of success.
- Back up you goal with specific actions. You may have a general goal such as the reduction of stress, but nothing will happen unless you craft specific actions that you can take to achieve this. For any one goal, try to have three matching actions. Once you have your goal and specific actions, you need to remind yourself at least weekly about these.
- Review your development plan regularly. Set a regular time aside to review your development plan. Have you been able to make progress? Do the aims or actions need adjusting? If you’ve not been able to follow through why not?
- Don’t let lack of success put you off. If you find after a month you’ve forgotten about your good intentions, don’t be put off. Just take the time to consider why, adjust your plan if necessary and start again. Take a tip from Queen Victoria who said; “We don’t know failure, we only know success or learning”
- Keep your development plan close to hand. Habit is a powerful thing, as an enemy or as an ally. It can take a minimum of 28 days to begin to alter the print of a habit, and it won’t happen if you simply intend something once. People who succeed in bringing about a change do so because thy work at it. Put your development plan somewhere close to hand where you’ll be reminded of it regularly.
- Reward your own successes. A development plan needs specific time targets to count. Set a time frame in relation to your goals and actions, e.g. three months to being about a new practice, or reduce a time wasting habit. When you reach the target date and measure your progress, give yourself a reward - a present, a trip out, a day off. It doesn’t matter what it is, and the emotional incentive will keep you motivated to succeed.
To contact Nick Woodeson, please email him at