How to Prioritize Personal Development in 2021

When you look back on the year we just lived through, do you feel satisfied?

For a lot of people, plans were put on hold or canceled permanently due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. You might have found it difficult to adapt and adjust to rules and restrictions that seemed to constantly change.

If you put your personal development on hold in 2020, the new year is a powerful opportunity to do things differently.

You should prioritize growth this year, no matter what’s going on in the world around you.

Here are five ways to ensure you evolve and improve in the year ahead.

Regain Control of Your Time

The first step in making personal development a priority is to regain control of your time. 

Too many people are conditioned to be reactive rather than proactive with how they spend the hours in a day. They dart from one task to another, often allowing a never-ending stream of emails, calls, and smartphone notifications to disrupt their focus.

One of the most impactful things you can do is to track your time and see where you are spending it. You can either use an app or tool to do this or just write it all down manually. Either way works fine.

Once you have a clear picture of how your time is being used, you can identify activities you want to cut back on, and others you want to do more of.

You can also batch certain tasks together, such as replying to all communications at a set hour, rather than allowing them to distract you as they arrive. 

Given that time is our only finite resource, you owe it to yourself to use it wisely. Being intentional about the things you do, how long you do them for, and when you do them, is a major stepping stone on the path to personal development. 

Let the Big Picture Guide You

If you don’t have a big picture vision for your life, it can be difficult to make the right choices on a day to day basis.

That’s because it’s easy to tell ourselves the lie that small actions don’t have consequences. If you hit the snooze button a couple of times, does it make a difference? If you opt for an hour of Netflix when you planned to read, what really changes?

Taking a big picture view can prevent you from falling into these mistakes. For example, spending five more minutes chilling in bed when you planned to get up and work on a goal might not make much of a difference in a single day, but it does over time. If you let yourself get away with it for an entire year, you would lose a large number of hours you will never get back.

So how do you let a powerful big picture goal guide you instead?

  1. Start with your long-term aims. Think about where you want to be five years down the line in every key area of your life that matters to you.
  2. Work backward yearly from that point. For example, if you had a five-year learning goal, how much would you need to learn each year to meet it?
  3. Think about the daily habits you will need to cultivate to meet your annual goals. Imagine you want to write a book within a year. What kind of action would you need to take daily to make that happen? How soon do you need to start writing?
  4. Decide how to measure. Without a way of measuring your progress, you’re likely to go astray. Keeping the SMART framework in mind can help you track how well you’re doing and where adjustments should be made. 

Once you have a big picture vision for your life, it’s a lot easier to stay on track on a day to day basis. 

Link Your Goals to Your Values

Sometimes, we fail to prioritize our personal development because we’re not truly aligned with the goals we’ve set ourselves

A lot of people end up following the script that society has written for them without stopping to consciously examine it. You might have absorbed expectations for how your life should go and what it should look like from the mainstream media or your family. But are these things what you truly want for yourself?

If you are living in a way that is unaligned with your deepest self, you’re likely to self-sabotage and stagnate. 

Instead, you need to be proactive about making sure your goals and your development are authentically aligned with your values and beliefs.

Take the time to write down everything that you are currently working toward. After that, examine each aim critically and carefully. Where did it come from? Which of your values does it align with? When did you last stop and consider whether this is something you truly want for your life?

By analyzing your aims and objectives on this deeper level, you allow yourself to see which goals are truly meaningful and which are out of sync with your deepest beliefs. 

This process ensures that your personal development priorities in 2021 are the ones that matter to your truest self, not the ones that society has thrust upon you. 

Make Your Development Non-Negotiable

Life is full of distractions. Too often, these distractions end up draining our time and energy away from more meaningful areas of life, such as personal development. 

This only happens when people see their personal development as some kind of luxury rather than the essential that it is.

If this sounds familiar, it’s important to proactively shift your mindset. If you see personal growth as something optional, you need to reframe your thinking. The truth is that any rationalization we have to not grow often stems from a place of fear and a reluctance to break out of our comfort zones. 

But how can you shift the way you treat personal growth? Try these ideas.

  • Journal each day. It’s a lot harder to ignore something when it’s written down. Take even as little as five minutes to journal each day. If you’re already a writer this will be easy, but if you’re not, it’s a great way to develop a writing habit.  When you force yourself to reflect on your development in writing, you are a lot more likely to give it the energy it needs.
  • Find a partner. When you are the only person aware of your aims, it’s a lot easier to ignore them. Find a partner who is as committed to personal development this year as you are. Ideally, they will have the same major goals as you, such as getting a book out into the world.  Hold each other accountable and share support along the way. Self-development isn’t something you have to do on your own!
  • Give yourself consequences. A third reason why development goals get deprioritized is due to a lack of consequences. Make it so that you have negative repercussions if you don’t give your growth the attention it deserves. These could be anything from missing a fun activity to having to give money away via a service like Stickk.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is making personal development a non-negotiable part of day to day life. Commit to this mindset shift in 2021 and get ready to reap the rewards.

Reflect and Realign Along the Way

Hopefully, you now have the ideas and action steps you need to make personal development a central part of your life in the upcoming year.

One last tip is to regularly and carefully check in with yourself along the way. What’s going well? What could use improvement? Do you need to do things differently? Are the goals you set yourself still meaningful, or do you need to adjust them?

Personal growth is something that should feel exciting and energizing. Take the time to refresh and realign your efforts as needed.

No matter what happens in the wider world in 2021, you can make this the year you do everything in your power to grow and become your best self. I wish you every success along the way. 

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