Do you feel like you have to be a superhero action figure to get through all the meetings, memos, email messages and other demands on your time? Are you bombarded daily by a widening variety of data streams, communications and “gotta minute” requests? Is it a challenge to find time for your really important goals?
Of course it is! And you’re not alone.
We live in the information age. In the time it took you to get this far into my post your email inbox has grown by at least 18 messages, you have 2 additional voicemails, and there is a lineup forming at your door. So how do we navigate this sea of unending demands in a way that keeps us productive and on course to get what we want?
Know what you want and don’t let go.
Without a firm grasp on what we expect to accomplish, our days will easily fill with unsatisfying information processing. What we really need is a map – a well-defined picture of what we want to own or achieve.
Try this quick test.
Think of three things you must do today. Go ahead and write them down. Now compare your to-do list with the most critical things you need to accomplish this quarter or this year. Is there alignment? If you’re like most of us your list is made up of urgent matters that require attention but having accomplished them will not bring you one single step closer to attaining your overall objectives. Take a walk through the six steps below and watch your daily to-do list morph into a power-packed action plan.
Six Steps to Getting What You Want
1. Know What You Want
Steven Covey would call this “begin with the end in mind”. What is your overall purpose — your vision and goals? These things are often iterative meaning you don’t have to get them right the first time you commit them to paper. Write down whatever comes to mind. You can revise them some other time. In fact you may find yourself revising them once or twice a year. That’s okay. Sometimes what is important to us changes or becomes clearer over time.
2. Own the Gap
Gaps are good – they show us the difference between where we are now and where we want to be. The more we can identify where we are in relation to the end goal, the better we can plan.
3. Understand What Is Required
If we can’t figure out how to move from where we are to where we want to be, it’s up to us to get help. Find a mentor, a colleague, a book. Think it through until you reach the point where you can map out the path.
4. Commit and Recommit
Keep yourself on course by reminding yourself why this goal is worthwhile. If you find yourself having to do this often, perhaps a good question to ask would be: Is this truly my goal or am I attempting commitment to make someone else happy?
5. Plan for Success
If it needs to be done it’s got to appear on your calendar. Everyone has their own method; scheduling time for A and B activities, scheduling appointments with ourselves for specific projects… It doesn’t matter what system we use as long as we do use a system that reserves time for these important steps toward achievement. Break your projects into actionable next steps and decide when and where you will do them.
6. Say No to Anything that will take you off course
The most important person to say no to is ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to getting off track. Vigilantly identify and cast off self-made distractions. Once we get good at this piece, saying no to others will come much more easily.
The key to staying focused is knowing where we want to go and staying on the right path. Keeping our goals front and center will help us stay aligned as we make time commitment decisions throughout the day.
Get ready to play a bigger game.
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