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12 Essential Tips for Staying on Target

Updated: May 18



Introduction.


From my personal experience, I know all too well the challenge of staying focused. Just like many of you, I find myself jotting down every little thing and surrounding myself with visual reminders to keep my eyes on the prize. Life never stops throwing curveballs, especially as we hit our 30s, 40s, and beyond. Our plates aren't just full—they're overflowing with professional deadlines, family commitments, and the perpetual quest for personal development.


That's why it's so important to have strategies in place that work for us individually. I've learned that what helps one person might not help another, but the key is to find your rhythm and stick to it. So, as we dive into the prime of our lives, let's explore these 12 golden rules designed to help you maintain your focus, achieve your milestones, and navigate the intricate maze of growth with confidence and clarity.


Tip 1: Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) Goals.


Embracing SMART goals is akin to switching on your full headlights on a misty evening drive – they illuminate the path ahead, ensuring you see your focus clearly. When crafting your goals, it's akin to asking yourself, "What do I genuinely aspire to achieve, and by when?" This approach acts as a guiding light, guiding you on a direct route towards your target, making your journey feel smoother and more achievable.

Consider a couple of SMART goal examples, one for your professional life and one for your personal life:


At Work: Picture yourself leading a team with the ambition to increase product sales. You might set a goal like this: "Let's boost our sales by 20% compared to last quarter within the next three months. We'll achieve this by implementing new sales software and conducting weekly training sessions to enhance our selling skills." This goal is crystal clear (increase sales), quantifiable (20% growth), feasible (with the right tools and training), aligned with your team's objectives, and has a well-defined deadline (three months).


At Home: Perhaps you're eager to enhance your culinary prowess. You could declare: "I intend to master the art of cooking five new dishes in the next month by following recipes from my favourite cooking blog." This goal is straightforward (learn new recipes), measurable (five dishes), attainable, personally significant, and attainable within a month.


SMART goals are a potent tool because they provide a clear line of sight to your target, allowing you to monitor your progress effectively. They seamlessly integrate into your daily life without overwhelming you. These are not mere aspirations but practical steps that lead you directly to your desired destination.



Tip 2: Break Down Your Goals into Smaller, Actionable Steps


Have you ever been overwhelmed by the size of your ambitions? Well, fret not! Think of it like cooking a complex dish, where you handle one ingredient at a time. This approach allows you to relish every small victory and maintain a record of your progress without feeling swamped.

Imagine you're a recent graduate, eagerly seeking your first job. Your ultimate goal? Landing that dream job. However, it's essential to break this colossal goal into manageable steps. Here's how:


Step 1: Define Your Overall Objective

Begin by clearly articulating your overarching ambition: securing a job after graduation. Be specific about the type of role, the industry, and the preferred location. Think of this as the final dish you're preparing.


Step 2: Research Your Desired Field

Gather detailed insights about your chosen industry. Identify key players, available roles, required qualifications, and skills in high demand. This information will guide your job search and help you tailor your approach.


Step 3: Update Your CV and LinkedIn Profile

Crafting a robust CV and LinkedIn profile is paramount. Ensure they are current, error-free, and effectively highlight your skills, experiences, and academic achievements. Tailor them to align with the industry's requirements identified in your research.


Step 4: Develop New Skills and Qualifications

If your research reveals skill gaps, take proactive steps to bridge them. This may entail enrolling in online courses, volunteering, or securing part-time work. Each new skill or qualification brings you one step closer to your goal.


Step 5: Network

Networking can be approached incrementally. Begin by connecting with alumni from your university working in your desired field. Attend industry webinars and virtual meetups. Engage with professionals on LinkedIn. Each new connection presents a potential opportunity.


Step 6: Gain Experience

Pursue internships, part-time roles, or volunteer positions related to your field. Each experience strengthens your CV and enhances your understanding of the job market, moving you closer to your desired position.


Step 7: Apply for Jobs

Break down the application process into manageable portions. Set targets for sending a certain number of applications each week. Tailor each application to match the job description and the company's ethos. Follow up on applications after a week or two.


Step 8: Prepare for Interviews

Divide interview preparation into researching the company, practicing common interview questions, and planning your travel arrangements. Consider each practice session and company research as a small victory en route to your ultimate goal.


Step 9: Reflect and Adjust

After each application or interview, take a moment to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Each reflection is an opportunity to refine your approach and enhance your technique.


Step 10: Stay Positive and Persistent

Job searches can be arduous and prolonged. Celebrate every small milestone achieved along the way, whether it's a positive response, an interview opportunity, or expanding your professional network. Remember, persistence is an amalgamation of numerous small, consistent efforts.


By deconstructing the overarching goal of securing a job into these bite-sized, actionable steps, recent graduates can maintain their momentum, navigate the job market with clarity, and stay focused on the ultimate objective: securing a coveted position in their chosen field.




Tip 3: Prioritise Your Tasks Daily - Nurturing Your Path to Success

Each morning, think about your day's tasks. Imagine it like caring for a garden of goals. Prioritising is like weeding to give the important tasks space to grow. It helps you nurture the seeds of success that will bloom into your desired outcomes. Here's how to do it, inspired by practical techniques and famous executives' habits:


Practical Techniques:

1. The Eisenhower Matrix: This matrix divides tasks into four categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. Focus on the important and urgent tasks first, and then move down the list.

2. The ABCD Method: Assign letters (A, B, C, D) to tasks, with A being the most critical. This helps you identify and tackle the most important tasks swiftly.

3. Time Blocking: Allocate specific time slots in your day for different types of tasks. For instance, designate the morning for high-priority work and the afternoon for meetings or administrative tasks.

4. Use Task Management Tools: Utilise digital tools like to-do lists, project management software, or apps to organise and track your tasks. These tools can help you visualise your workload and priorities.

5. The 2-Minute Rule: If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. This reduces the build-up of small, time-consuming tasks.


Practical Advice:

1. Set Clear Goals: Having well-defined goals makes it easier to identify tasks that align with your objectives.

2. Limit Distractions: Minimise interruptions and distractions during your designated work time. Turn off notifications, close unnecessary tabs, and create a focused work environment.

3. Regularly Review and Adjust: Periodically review your goals and priorities. As circumstances change, you may need to adapt your task list to stay on track.

4. Delegate When Possible: If certain tasks can be delegated to others, don't hesitate to do so. Delegating frees up your time for more strategic work.

5. Practice the "Two-Minute Scan": Before you begin your day, quickly scan your task list and identify any quick wins or tasks that can be completed rapidly.


Digital Apps to Help Prioritise Your Day:

Todoist - A versatile task manager with a user-friendly interface. Website: Todoist

Trello - A visual project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards. Website: Trello

Asana - A task and project management platform that helps teams collaborate and stay organized. Website: Asana

Microsoft To Do - A simple task management app integrated with Microsoft 365. Website: Microsoft To Do

Notion - A versatile workspace that allows you to create customized task lists, databases, and notes. Website: Notion

ClickUp - A project management and productivity tool with customizable features. Website: ClickUp

TickTick - A task manager with to-do lists, reminders, and a calendar view. Website: TickTick

Any.do - A simple and elegant task management app with features like voice input and calendar integration. Website: Any.do


Famous Executives' Prioritisation Methods:

1. Warren Buffett's Two-List Strategy: Buffett advises making a list of your top 25 career goals and then focusing solely on the top 5. The other 20 items become your 'avoid-at-all-costs' list, ensuring you don't dilute your efforts.

2. Elon Musk's Time Blocking: Musk often divides his day into five-minute slots, allocating specific tasks to each slot. This level of granularity ensures that he maximises his productivity.

3. Steve Jobs' Focus on Core Priorities: Jobs was known for his relentless focus on a few key priorities. He believed that saying 'no' to distractions and non-essential tasks was crucial for achieving greatness.

4. Mark Zuckerberg's 'Year of Books': Zuckerberg commits to reading a book every two weeks, emphasising personal development as a high-priority task outside his daily responsibilities.

5. Jeff Bezos' Regret Minimization Framework: Bezos has famously used the 'regret minimisation' concept when making decisions. He imagines himself in the future and considers what choice he would regret not making. This helps him prioritise based on long-term goals.


Incorporating these practical techniques, advice, and insights from renowned executives can enhance your daily task prioritisation. By consistently nurturing the tasks that align with your goals, you'll pave a clearer path towards achieving your desired success, one day at a time.



Tip 4: Eliminate or Reduce Distractions.

We've all felt the allure of distractions pulling us away from our tasks. It's like the mesmerizing call of sirens, tempting us to veer off course. But fear not, for there are ways to navigate these treacherous waters and carve out a haven where focus reigns supreme.


Whether it's finding a quiet corner in your home or donning noise-cancelling headphones, anything that helps you stay on course amid the alluring sea of distractions is your ally. It's a simple truth: to maintain productivity and keep your goals in sight, you must create an environment that champions focus above all else.


Here are some examples:


At Home:

  1. Designate a Quiet Workspace: Set up a dedicated workspace at home where you can work without interruptions. Make it comfortable and organised to minimise distractions.

  2. Turn Off Notifications: Silence or disable non-essential notifications on your devices to prevent constant interruptions from emails, social media, or messaging apps.

  3. Set Specific Work Hours: Establish clear working hours and communicate them to your family or housemates, so they know when you're focused on work.

  4. Use Website Blockers: Install website blocker extensions on your browser to prevent access to time-wasting websites during work hours.

  5. Time Management Techniques: Employ techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in focused intervals with short breaks, to boost productivity and limit distractions.

  6. Prioritise Tasks: Start your day by listing the most important tasks. This helps you maintain focus on what truly matters instead of getting lost in less significant activities.


In the Workplace:

  1. Create a Clutter-Free Desk: Keep your workspace clean and organised, reducing visual distractions and making it easier to concentrate.

  2. Limit Meetings: Minimise unnecessary meetings and keep them concise. Over-scheduled meetings can disrupt your workflow and lead to inefficiency.

  3. Use Do Not Disturb Sign: If you have a physical office, use a "Do Not Disturb" sign or signal to indicate when you need uninterrupted focus time.

  4. Email Management: Set specific times to check and respond to emails instead of constantly monitoring your inbox. Turn off email notifications.

  5. Open-Door Policy: If you're a manager, encourage your team to approach you with questions or concerns during specified "office hours" rather than interrupting your work constantly.

  6. Headphones and Music: Invest in noise-cancelling headphones or play soothing instrumental music to block out office chatter and create a focused atmosphere.


In a world full of distractions, maintaining focus is the key to unlocking your true potential. Just as sailors navigated the perilous call of sirens, you too can chart a course towards productivity and achievement. Whether it's through creating a serene home workspace or adopting strategies in the workplace, you have the power to reclaim your focus. Remember, by prioritising your tasks and eliminating distractions, you're not just enhancing productivity; you're carving a path towards your goals. So, embark on this journey, and watch as your accomplishments flourish in the fertile soil of undistracted effort.



Tip 5: Practice Self-Discipline.

Self-discipline is the inner compass that keeps you sailing true north, even when procrastination tempts you to drift off course. It's about showing up for your goals, rain or shine. Consistency is key in the voyage to achieve focus and direction.


Why Self-Discipline Matters:

Imagine self-discipline as the wind in your sails, propelling you forward on your journey towards success. Here's why it's so essential:

  1. Consistency: Self-discipline fosters consistency, the cornerstone of progress. It ensures you stay on track with your goals, no matter what distractions or hurdles appear on the horizon.

  2. Achievement: By adhering to self-discipline, you demonstrate a commitment to your objectives. This dedication is often the catalyst for significant accomplishments.

  3. Personal Growth: Self-discipline encourages personal growth by pushing you beyond your comfort zone. It's through self-discipline that you develop new skills, habits, and perspectives.

  4. Resilience: When you practice self-discipline, you become more resilient. Challenges and setbacks become opportunities for learning and growth, rather than reasons to give up.

  5. Time Management: Self-discipline helps you manage your time effectively, ensuring that you allocate it to activities that truly matter, rather than frittering it away on distractions.

  6. Focus: Discipline improves your ability to focus on the task at hand, making you more productive and efficient in your work.


Ways to practice Self-Discipline

Here are six examples of self-discipline in action:

  1. Create a Routine: Establish daily routines and schedules. Consistency in your daily habits helps reinforce self-discipline by making tasks a regular part of your life.

  2. Healthy Eating: Opting for nutritious meals instead of indulging in unhealthy snacks requires self-discipline.

  3. Punctuality: Arriving on time for appointments, meetings, or work demonstrates discipline and respect for others' time.

  4. Financial Savings: Consistently saving a portion of your income, regardless of temptations to spend, showcases financial self-discipline.

  5. Studying or Learning: Dedication to studying or acquiring new skills, even when it's challenging, reflects self-discipline.

  6. Task Completion: Following through on tasks or projects, especially when they become difficult or tedious, highlights your ability to stay disciplined.


Leaders of Self-Discipline:

Two notable figures renowned for their self-discipline are Jocko Willink and Angela Duckworth. Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL and author, exemplifies self-discipline through his rigorous daily routines and unwavering commitment to leadership principles. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and author of "Grit," explores the concept of perseverance and passion as keys to success, shedding light on the importance of self-discipline in achieving long-term goals.


To delve deeper into their insights and experiences, you can explore their work at the following web references:


Now, as you contemplate the role of self-discipline in your journey, remember that it's also the cornerstone of focus. Self-discipline and focus go hand in hand, as the ability to maintain concentration on your goals is a direct result of disciplined practices. So, I leave you with this question: What specific steps can you take today to strengthen your self-discipline, sharpen your focus, and steer your ship toward your desired destination of success?



Tip 6: Stay Motivated.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." – Winston Churchill

Keeping the Fire of Motivation Burning Is Crucial

Maintaining motivation is essential. Surround yourself with positive affirmations and constant reminders of your goals. It's akin to having a personal cheerleader in your corner, encouraging you when challenges arise. Always keep your final goal in sight and remember your initial motivations – these will be the driving force to help you overcome any obstacles.


Benefits of Staying Motivated

1. Enhanced Productivity: There is a direct correlation between high motivation levels and increased productivity. When motivated, you're likely to work more efficiently, manage your time better, and focus more intently on achieving your objectives.

2. Improved Mental and Physical Health: Motivated individuals often enjoy better mental and physical health. This is because motivation helps reduce stress and anxiety and encourages a healthier lifestyle, contributing to overall well-being.


Two Highly Motivated Entrepreneurs

1. Elon Musk: Musk, the driving force behind SpaceX, Tesla, and Neuralink, is motivated by his vision to revolutionize transportation both on Earth and in space. His unwavering commitment to addressing global challenges like sustainable energy and space colonization fuels his relentless drive.

2. Sheryl Sandberg: As the COO of Facebook (now Meta) and the author of 'Lean In', Sandberg is driven by her commitment to empowering women in the workplace. Her efforts to foster more inclusive work environments and support women in leadership roles have been central to her career.


Strategies for Staying Motivated

1. Find Your 'Why': Understanding the reasons behind your goals can significantly enhance your motivation. This intrinsic motivator – be it personal growth, passion for your work, or a desire to make a difference – should always be at the forefront of your mind, especially during challenging times.

2. Maintain a Positive Mindset: A positive mindset is crucial for overcoming challenges and viewing setbacks as opportunities for growth. It involves recognizing negative thoughts but choosing to focus on positive outcomes and solutions.


By keeping your ultimate goal in sight and remembering the reasons that started you on your path, you can sustain your determination to overcome any challenge. This consistent drive not only boosts your productivity and focus but also significantly contributes to your mental and physical well-being. Remember, every journey begins with a single step, and staying motivated is what propels you forward, step by step, towards your dreams. Keep your eyes on the prize and let your passion illuminate your path to success.




Tip 7: Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle.


Your body, indeed, is the engine of your ambition. By maintaining it with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep, you ensure peak performance in all areas of life. Just as a well-oiled machine operates smoothly, a healthy body supports a sharp and active mind. Let's explore six strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle, look at two key benefits, and draw inspiration from two highly motivated entrepreneurs.


Six Strategies to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Regular Exercise: Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Whether it's a brisk walk, a gym session, or yoga, exercise boosts physical and mental health, enhancing both strength and stamina.

  2. Balanced Diet: A healthy diet is fundamental. Prioritise a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid excessive sugar and processed foods. Good nutrition fuels both body and mind.

  3. Adequate Sleep: Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours per night to allow your body and mind to recover and rejuvenate.

  4. Stress Management: High stress levels can harm your health. Techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and hobbies can help manage stress.

  5. Hydration: Drinking enough water is essential for overall health. It aids digestion, improves skin health, and boosts energy levels.

  6. Regular Health Check-Ups: Regular check-ups can preempt health issues and ensure that you remain on the right track towards a healthy lifestyle.


Two Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Increased Energy and Productivity: A healthy lifestyle leads to increased energy levels, making you more productive in your personal and professional life.

  2. Improved Mental Health: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep contribute significantly to improved mental health, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.


Who To Follow With a Health Lifestyle


Joe Wicks - Also known as "The Body Coach," Joe Wicks is a fitness coach, TV presenter, and author in the UK. He gained widespread recognition, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, for his online workout sessions aimed at children and families, known as "PE with Joe." Wicks promotes exercise and healthy eating and has published several cookbooks and fitness guides.


Jamie Oliver - Jamie Oliver is a renowned chef and TV personality, well-known not just for his cooking shows and books but also for his advocacy for healthy eating. He has been particularly vocal about improving nutrition in schools and has led public health campaigns in the UK, aiming to change attitudes towards food and encourage healthier lifestyles through better cooking and eating habits.



Tip 8: Learn to Say No.

Time is precious, and every 'yes' to something off-course is a 'no' to your own goals. Be selective with your commitments. It's not about being selfish; it's about being strategic. Saying 'no' can be empowering – it means you're prioritising your path to growth and ensuring you don't spread yourself too thinly.


Embracing the power of 'no' also enhances your ability to manage stress effectively by reducing unnecessary burdens. Often, the fear of appearing uncooperative or the desire to please everyone leads to over-commitment. By setting clear boundaries, you not only safeguard your time but also improve your focus and productivity. Remember, every time you say 'no' to a task that doesn't align with your priorities, you're making more room for tasks that are truly beneficial to your personal and professional development. This strategic approach helps maintain a healthier work-life balance and reduces the risk of burnout.




Tip 9: Seek Support from Friends, Family, or Mentors.

No one achieves greatness in isolation. Building a support network is critical, and while friends, family, and mentors are invaluable, there are times when you might need additional support, particularly for mental health issues. In the UK and Northern Ireland, several organisations are dedicated to providing this support:


  • Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk): Offers advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

  • Samaritans (https://www.samaritans.org): Provides a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever's getting to you.

  • Rethink Mental Illness (https://www.rethink.org): Helps millions of people affected by mental illness by challenging attitudes and changing lives.

  • Action Mental Health (https://www.amh.org.uk): Works to enhance the quality of life and the employability of people with mental health needs or a learning disability in Northern Ireland.


The types of support that friends, family, or mentors can offer include:

  • Emotional Support: Listening to your concerns, providing empathy, and being there for you during tough times.

  • Practical Support: Offering help with tasks, sharing resources, or giving advice on managing your workload.

  • Perspective: Giving you different viewpoints on an issue, can help you see a clearer path forward.

  • Encouragement: Cheering you on, celebrating your wins, however small, and encouraging you to keep going when things get tough.

  • Accountability: Checking in on your progress, helping you stay on track with your goals, and calling you out when you might be slacking off or heading off course.

  • Knowledge and Experience: Share their own experiences and knowledge, which can guide you in making informed decisions.

These relationships can have a profound impact on your ability to navigate challenges and maintain your mental health while pursuing your professional and personal goals.




Tip 10: Regularly Review and Reflect.


To stay on track with your goals, make it a habit to review your progress and reflect on your experiences regularly. Set aside a quiet moment each week, such as a Sunday evening, to contemplate the past week's achievements and challenges.


Consider, for example, your goal to improve leadership skills. After attending a workshop, trying to read leadership books, and taking on a team project, you use reflection time to realise that reading at night isn't working for you and that the project requires better delegation.


Recording your thoughts in a journal can help you see patterns and measure progress while discussing your reflections with a mentor or a friend can provide fresh perspectives.

The aim is to acknowledge your successes, understand what didn't work, and adjust your strategy accordingly. This way, reflection becomes a powerful tool for continuous self-improvement, ensuring you learn from every step of your journey.




Tip 11: Visualise Your Success Frequently.

Imagine the satisfaction of reaching your goals – let this vision guide and inspire you. It's like having a snapshot of the destination on your desk; it keeps you focused on why the journey is worth it. Regularly visualising success isn't just daydreaming; it's setting your sights on the prize and charging towards it with purpose.


One helpful approach is to create a vision board that represents your goals. You can use a physical board and magazine cutouts or go digital with websites like Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com), where you can pin images that align with your aspirations.

For a more high-tech solution, try a vision board app. Apps like VisuApp (https://visuapp.com) for iOS and Android let you create a portable vision board that you can carry on your smartphone or tablet.


If you prefer guided visualisation, consider meditation apps with visualisation exercises. Headspace (https://www.headspace.com) offers sessions focused on visualisation to help you imagine and work towards a future where you've achieved your goals.


Listening to visualisation scripts can also be useful. YouTube has countless visualisation videos that guide you through imagining your success. Just type 'visualisation meditation' into the search bar on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com) and explore the options.


In weaving these strategies into the fabric of your daily life, you'll find the journey to personal growth more manageable and enjoyable. Keep these six signposts in mind, and you'll have a roadmap that leads to a fulfilling destination.



Tip 12: Be Aware of Self-Sabotaging Beliefs on Your Focus

Have you ever found yourself on the verge of a big achievement or a breakthrough, only to do something that seems to throw it all off course? That's often self-sabotage in action, and it's sneakier than you might think, especially when it comes to staying focused. For the final tip in our series, let's chat about self-sabotaging beliefs and how they can muck up our concentration.


Self-sabotage is like having a little gremlin in your mind that whispers things like, "You're not good enough" or "Why bother? You'll probably mess it up." These negative beliefs can do a number on our focus. They make us doubt ourselves just enough to stop aiming for what we truly want.


But here's the good news: once you clock what's happening, you can start tackling these pesky thoughts. It's about catching yourself when that inner critic pipes up and then flipping the script. Instead of letting it say "You can't," tell yourself "I'm learning how." It's like training a muscle – the more you practice positive self-talk, the stronger your focus will become.

Remember, our thoughts have power. By staying aware of self-sabotaging beliefs and challenging them, we keep our focus sharp and our eyes on the prize. So, take a moment to listen to what your inner voice is saying and make sure it's cheering you on, not holding you back.


Conclusion.

As we've navigated through these 12 golden rules for personal and career growth, it's clear that the journey requires commitment, self-awareness, and a good dose of resilience. From setting SMART goals to mastering the art of saying 'no', each tip serves as a stepping stone towards the ultimate prize: achieving your aspirations.


Remember, real growth is a holistic process. It's not just about climbing the career ladder or ticking off goals; it's about cultivating a mindset and lifestyle that propels you forward, day in and day out. By maintaining a healthy balance, seeking support, and keeping your eyes on the prize, you're not just chasing dreams – you're living them.


As you forge ahead, armed with these strategies, take comfort in knowing that every small step is a leap towards your success. Embrace the journey with an open heart and a clear vision, and there's no limit to what you can accomplish. Keep pushing, keep growing, and let the golden rules light your way to a future brimming with potential.


 

Regards, Paula

Careers and Personal Growth Coach

⭐ If you're beginning your journey or seeking a new path, I can help you plan your next steps.

⭐ If you need to discuss your career situation:

📌 Contact me at info@donnancoachingservices.com












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