'Get stuff done.' That's the mantra of the daily grind that is America 2017. You drag yourself out of bed earlier than anyone else. You stay late at the office three or more nights a week. You bust your butt and stockpile vacation days like they're going out of style. You do all this and more under the guise of getting stuff done. It's as if you believe he who gets the most stuff done wins.
You do this ever year, yet reach December with unfinished projects and unreached goals. Amidst all the grinding discipline on display in your daily routine, things fell through the cracks and the goals that meant the most to you were neglected for more urgent things. We recently discussed setting goals and I'm sure you have tons of them for 2017. Today, I'd like to share with you five things that help me keep my priorities in line and give me more time to work on my goals.
1. Write Things Down.
You have a ton to keep up with. Most of the time you can remember it all without trying or thinking anything of it. When it comes to important things however, you write them down. Your wife doesn't send you to the store without a grocery list. You have a to do list and hopefully a don't do list at work. You use lists to run the important areas of your life. What could be more important than achieving your annual goals?
Write down your goals. Find a nice quiet spot, free from distractions, and spend some time writing out all you're committed to achieving this year. This one simple act makes you 42% more likely to reach your goals. Write them down and put them somewhere you'll see them every day. I have a friend who puts his in his closet. Every morning as he gets dressed for the day, he looks at his goals and every night before bed he does the same. It helps him ensure that he is taking concrete steps towards them each and every day. Do something similar.
2. Rig The Game
People who want to get to Disney World don't simply get in the car and start driving, hoping the road will somehow get them there. Instead, they look at a map and chart their course. They do this in advance, rather than waiting until they arrive at the wrong destination or discover they've spent three days driving the wrong direction. If you want to get somewhere, guesswork is a poor strategy. Just like you planned a route for your last road trip, you need to decide how you are going to reach your goals.
Regardless of how strong your will power or how committed you are, there are going to be days where you don't feel like working on your goal. Imagine your goal is to run a marathon in 2017. Reaching that goal will require you to go run everyday. If each morning you have to convince yourself you really want to do this, you're in trouble. It's a huge obstacle to overcome. Over time, it will wear you down, and could derail your goals. The solution is to remove that daily decision by rigging the game in your favor.
"You will never change your life," John Maxwell said, "until you change something you do daily. The secret of success is found in your daily routine." Get over the hump and assure yourself success, by finding a way to make your goal a habit. It can be as simple as, "When I get up each morning, I sit down to write for thirty minutes." Building small daily habits like this, makes it as close to impossible to fail as you can get. It forces you to be consistent and consistent action over a period of time is the surest route I know to achieving them.
3. Focus On The Right Things
"What is important," Dwight Eisenhower said, "is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important." Many of the tasks you spend time on each day don't get you any closer to reaching your goals. They come to you with sirens and horns blaring demanding your attention, but offer little in return. These urgent deadlines, and problems have to be dealt with but pull you away from other important things. Likewise interruptions and time wasting activities draw your attention away from productive endeavors. With emergencies, interruptions and problems coming at you left and right, how do you continue to move forward on your goals? The answer is found in a helpful decision matrix popularized by Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
When tasks cross your path, run it through the matrix above. If it lands in quadrant four (not urgent, not important), do it later. If it belongs in quadrant three (not important, but urgent), delegate it to someone else. Obviously, the urgent and important tasks need to be attended to immediately, but don't forget to make time for quadrant 2 (important, but not urgent). The more time you can focus on this quadrant, the better off you'll be. It will allow you to deal with important things before they become urgent.
4. Get Up Early
If you want to get a lot done while avoiding the time wasters, interruptions and all the things that keep you from working on your goals, get up earlier. This isn't a popular suggestion. Most people scoff at the thought, and that's exactly why you shouldn't. You don't want to settle for average, you want above average. Average people sleep in as late as possible, while the above average person gets up early and gets to work on their most important projects.
As you read about focusing on those tasks that belong in quadrant 2, you wondered where the time to do that is going to come from. The early morning hours are the perfect solution to that quandary. If you made the decision to rise one hour earlier, you could gain five extra hours of productive time per week. That's roughly six plus weeks over the course of a year, while still taking two weeks off for vacation. This is how you get your goals done.
5. Don't Throw In The Towel
No one ever achieved more by quitting. Your greatest weakness is listening to that voice in your head telling you to give up when things get hard. When you find yourself on the verge of giving up I want you to give it one more try. There is so much value in staying in the fight.