“The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them.” – Denis Watley
In the first entry of this series, Managing Our Time, I talked a lot about my desire to take control of my time: planning my days and intentionally giving my energy to things that I care about: things that matter, things that are important to me. I think this was a theme in that introductory message, but I want to reiterate it here: I don’t pretend to have this figured out. I’m not sure anyone truly has this figured out. It’s a work in progress. This is something that I’ve been working on actively and intentionally for years. As a result, I’ve learned several habits and techniques that work for me in terms of maximizing productivity, satisfaction, and ultimately happiness. Equally important, I’ve learned to pinpoint a bunch of habits that do not!
The driving force behind my daily schedule is my goals. I take time to thoughtfully and intentionally establish goals for each facet (or role) of my life. At the start of each week, when I’m staring at a blank planner, the first thing I sit down beside that blank planner is a list of my goals. This provides a not-so-subtle reminder to work on things that matter to me. The only way to achieve a goal is to budget the time, energy, and focus to reach it. Goals and scheduling have to coincide.
Goals can provide their own motivation, but only if:
- They’re written (and written well)
- They’re placed in front of you every single day!
I find it extremely important to place my goals in front of me. For the longest time, I took a page from my friend Jeff Rose’s book and had a small printed sheet of goals posted both on my bathroom mirror and above my desk so that they were in plain view every day. It’s not as if I consciously read through my goals multiple times a day, but they were always there, to serve as a reminder and a guide. And at least once a week, I would take a few moments to review them, think about my progress, and determine actionable ways to proceed in a positive direction. More recently, I’ve taken that idea one step farther. I’ve defined actionable habits that align with my goals: some are daily, weekly, monthly habits. In addition to my goals, I developed this daily checklist to serve as both a reminder and a motivational tool (yea, I get a rush out of checking off the boxes… Silly, sure: but it does help me build momentum). Making a goal and locking it away is one thing. I’ve found real value in keeping goals in front of me.
Keeping goals in front of me is my way of performing routine progress checks: I can look them over regularly and perform a goal analysis. How am I doing? What can I do to adjust my course if I’m not on track to reach one of my goals? More importantly, I can give myself some credit for the progress made, and let the momentum snowball!
The other advantage of keeping goals in front of me is that eventually I have to take them down (and replace them with updated goals). This provides the ultimate opportunity for reflection and follow up. How did I do? For the goals reached, there is a huge feeling of satisfaction: this was a major hurdle or aim in my life a month (or 3 months, or 1 year) ago, and now it’s something I’ve proven that I can accomplish! How can I reshape or reframe that goal to motivate me to improve going forward (note: some goals have become habit to the point that we no longer need the reminder)? In the instances where I’ve fallen short, it’s important to think about why. Was the goal unrealistic? Was it poorly written (lack of measurement, lack of schedule, etc.)? Have my priorities changed? Honesty (without self judgement) is really critical.
“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.” – Tony Robbins