One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to stop. Stop chasing deadlines, stop pushing harder, faster and just…just slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down…to a full stop. Spend a bit of quality time with yourself to take stock of what’s working and what’s not.  Are you able to spend time on the things that really matter, that you really want to do (or at least a good portion of your time on these things)?

Research shows that people that are stressed and overwhelmed spend less than 25% of their time on things that are fulfilling to them. This can be at work and at home and at play. Are you being distracted from the important? Under demand from other people’s requests? Under delusion that the majority of your time on certain tasks is the best or fastest way to achieve your desired outcome? Of course, we all spend time in these phases, and indeed we need to spend time on the not-so-urgent-or-important duties during our days and weeks.

But every once in a while we need to take a step back. When is the last time you stopped? Took stock of where your time and attention is going, and should go? What is working for you (i.e. when are you at your best, where are you most productive and/or fulfilled, how are you managing your time and attention, where are you not coping as well as you’d like to)?

By the way, this doesn’t need to be a deep, soul-searching exercise. It can be a simple health check or audit of what’s happening right now in your life and what you could do to improve and increase your happiness or zest for life, work, family, friends, community, spirituality, and so on.

It’s a simple exercise of looking back on recent times and asking yourself the questions above. In just a few minutes of honest reflection your 20/20 hindsight will provide great foresight on how to easily and effortlessly take steps towards improvement and progress.

Do this without harsh judgment or beating yourself up for things that aren’t quite where you want them to be, just the process of this simple task will take you that much closer to everything you want to achieve. Even if you’ve struggled for a while or know you’ve procrastinated on making a change – that’s life, you’re human just like me. So if your initial reaction is self-blame or doubt, change it instead to one of gratitude that you care enough about yourself and are willing to live life more on your terms. Take the time to stop, acknowledge where you’d like to improve, and simply turn your attention to helpful and easy ways to take immediate steps in the right direction.

Here’s a simple guide (and secret of highly productive and consistent producers of excellence) on how and when to do this:

One minute per day: Before you lay your head on your pillow, reflect on the day and ask, ‘What was great about today?’ How can I make tomorrow even better?’ Be specific in your answers. Simple, easy, wonderfully rewarding.

One hour per week: Schedule and commit to one hour per week to reflect back on the previous week. How did you do? Did you complete what you wanted to? Did you get the outcomes you were hoping for? What can you do differently to effectively and efficiently manage your days/time/attention/energy this upcoming week? What are your priorities and outcomes for next week? Personally, I find first thing Saturday morning a great time to do this.

One day per quarter: Schedule and commit to one full day every three months to reflect back on the previous 90 days. Where have you seen great results and progress? What are the trends in how or where you under-delivered against your expectations? What can you start doing, or better yet, what will you commit to changing during the next 90 days. Be sure to look at all major areas of your life: health & vitality, finances & wealth creation, relationships with your partner & friends (separate out your partner from other friends or family), hobbies & interests, spirituality & community. You can also expand this to include your relevant professional categories. Make it a fun exercise and engage others in the hindsight and foresight exercise where appropriate. One full day might seem like a lot…but how much will you gain over the next 90 days from a 6-8 hour investment in planning ahead. (Hint: far more than you can imagine!). Personally, the last Friday or Saturday of March, June, September, December are great triggers to remind me to do this. You can also use the first day of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.

One weekend per year: A lot can happen in your life (and a lot can be delayed) in a year so it — and living the life that you want and deserve (!) — demands quality reflection and projection forward. Schedule and commit to two days at the end of the year to reflect on your previous goals and desires for the past year, the victories and defeats, the joys and sorrows. Where are you versus where you expected to be? What is going to make the next year different? Who are you becoming? How can you change or grow to become the person you want to be? What 20/20 hindsight can you use as foresight for an extraordinary year ahead? How much could you set yourself on an exciting and rewarding path with two full days of stopping, reflecting and planning ahead? (Hint: far more than you can imagine!)

20/20 hindsight is always there. So is your ability to reflect on these insights and turn them into powerful and empowering foresight for designing and living the life you’ve always imagined.

Start treating yourself to this gift today.