Now that 2020 has come and gone (and who hasn’t said ‘Good riddance’?), 2021 offers the chance to refresh our minds and get back on track.

You’re not alone if you’ve felt derailed over the past 12 months or so. The pandemic has affected everyone on the planet, and the feeling of loss of control has been felt deep by all.


Besides essential workers, many have had to adapt to working from home and still remaining as productive as we were in the office or place of work.

That’s been pretty tough when the kids are disrupting you, or your partner wants your attention, or you’re isolating on your own with no companionship. Increasing anxiety and stress about finances, work, study, and relationships have also taken their toll.

Needless to say, some bad habits have probably crept in over the course of 2020. Things that used to be done effectively have been left to slide. Procrastination has taken hold, or your energy levels have hit the floor.

You know your mindset has slipped if there seems to be a lot of half-completed tasks that just didn’t seem to get done by the end of last year. Or you seem to get distracted from your tasks more often than usual. Or even little things that never used to get you upset now seem to get overwhelming.

As a doctor and transformational coach, I’ve found that when your personal and professional effectiveness is reduced, this has a direct effect on your productivity.

Pandemics aside, there are many reasons for diminishing effectiveness in your personal and professional life.

For instance, research by Stanford University in 2009 suggested that multitasking is a significant cause of reduced productivity by as much as 40%. In this study, heavy multi-taskers consistently under-performed light multi-taskers and the researchers concluded that by doing less you might actually accomplish more.

Now, whether you work from home or on site, stress is another factor that effects your personal and professional effectiveness. Stress has an effect on your physical and mental wellbeing, and is a known cause of fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, anxiety, apathy, and other ailments that affect your performance at home and at work.

In fact, the American Psychological Association, Stress in America Study, 2014, revealed the top 7 leading causes of stress, being:

  1. Work
  2. Money
  3. Health
  4. Relationships
  5. Poor nutrition
  6. Media overload
  7. Sleep deprivation

I hazard to guess these top 7 causes of stress have been magnified during the pandemic of 2020. And unfortunately, we’re still a long way from seeing the back end of COVID-19.

So what can we do to increase our personal and professional effectiveness in 2021?

We need to become better self-managers.

What does this mean? First, let’s identify the requirements of a good self-management mindset:

  • Responsible choice-making—the ability to make reasonable and informed decisions
  • Mature reasoning and emotional intelligence—the ability to control your own actions and emotions
  • Self-determination—the ability to set and achieve personal and professional goals
  • Self-Leadership—the ability to have a positive influence in your environment

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, What makes a leader? Daniel Goleman, author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, described self-management as:

“Being able to manage impulses and moods and to think before acting.”

Anything that diminishes your ability to manage your impulses and moods and to think before acting diminishes your personal and professional effectiveness. Things like multitasking and stress.

On the other hand, anything that improves your ability to manage your impulses and moods and to think before acting improves your personal and professional effectiveness.

Things like goal setting.

Psychologists advocate goal setting as the best way to manage your impulses and moods and make reasoned and informed decisions before taking action.

Those who don’t set goals don’t have direction.

Without direction, you are prone to acting on impulse and reacting to whatever is happening around you. You are like a ship without a rudder, going around and around in circles without a port to head to.

But those who set goals have direction.

They know where they’re going. And because they have a destination they want to reach, they make reasoned and informed decisions. They control their actions and emotions. They have a positive influence on their environment and those around them.

Those who set goals go a long way to filling the requirements of good self-management.

But what goals should you set yourself?

For optimum results, you should set goals in your 7 Life Segments:

  1. Family & Relationships
  2. Career & Work
  3. Money & Finances
  4. Health & Wellbeing
  5. Learning & Education
  6. Fun & Adventure
  7. Spirituality & Ethics (or Religion & Morals)

Although there are others, these 7 Life Segments are the main areas in which you can focus and set goals to achieve throughout each phase of your personal and professional life.

So here is a good exercise that I set my clients, which you can use to improve your self-management and thus your productivity at home and at work:

  1. Rank each Life Segment in order of importance from 1-7 and write down your reasons for each ranking.
  2. Now consider your No. 1 goal for each Life Segment and the date by which you’d like to achieve them.

For instance, you might rank Career & Work as your No. 1 Life Segment for the reason that it is your main focus at this point in your life.

Next, you might set a goal of securing 20 new, high-paying clients by the end of this year.

Set 1 goal for each Life Segment, so you will have a total of 7 goals for this year at least.

You might like to discuss them with family, friends, colleagues, and other important people in your life.

These goals are what you will be working toward over the next few weeks, months, and maybe even years. So the important point is not to rush this task but to get it right.