Time is precious. Whether it’s for work or personal reasons most of us have a lot going on in our lives, I know I do. How often do you stop to think about where your time goes? Are you focusing your time on achieving the right goals or just filling your time with a never-ending pile of tasks?
We can be our own worst enemy because it’s very easy to convince ourselves that being busy means being effective. Unfortunately it’s not the case. Not all effort is equal – you may be familiar with the Pareto Principle which states that 20% of your effort produces 80% of the results. Some of the problem stems from the fact we all like the quick fix of satisfaction we get from crossing something off our to-do list. That means we let our time get eaten up as we complete the easier things that give a sense of success – but fail to achieve anything really meaningful.
And of course the goal of ‘getting everything done’ is simply impossible because there will never be an end point. So give up on getting it all done and instead start focusing on doing what matters most. You need to identify and focus on the activities that are priorities and deliver the highest returns on your effort and get rid of those that don’t.
Tracking your goals with lists.
It’s likely you do use lists already and with good reason. Research shows pressure doesn’t just come from having too much to do but from trying to keep track of it all. So the list takes care of the job of remembering things and frees up your brain to focus on successfully completing the work.
But lists can be counterproductive if the contents are simply an enormous list of activities you know you’ll never complete. It ends up becoming another source of pressure.
So how can you successfully prioritize the right things?
Forget the detail for a moment.
You need to take time to reflect on the right goals. Think about the bigger picture and work out what it is you want to do and why. It may be that your work goals are already set for you or from part of a broader set of company targets. But you still need to be clear about exactly what your contribution to those goals looks like.
Break down your goals effectively.
Even once you’ve clarified your goals, they can actually be really demoralizing if you don’t know how to go about achieving them. You need to break each one down into smaller steps to start moving towards where you need to be.
- Work backwards from your end goal.
- Every time you identify a smaller goal, check if it can be further broken down into sub goals.
- These sub goals will start to become tasks. Order them chronologically to give you a logical list of everything you need to complete to reach your goal.
- Factor in enough time to realistically complete the tasks, taking into account other people’s deadlines as well. If you identify a problem – talk to them about it.
Think about the context of your goals.
There’s another important step to ensure success in reaching your goals. Before you begin working towards them, consider whether you need any particular resources to make each step happen. It could be specific knowledge, assistance from others, equipment…whatever it is, make plans now so it’s available at the time when you need it.
Acknowledge your success.
Making even a small amount of progress on meaningful work is a powerful motivator. So occasionally try writing a ‘have done’ list to help you judge whether you are making progress with the right goals.
And who knows – you may discover you’re actually being rather hard on yourself. Sometimes it’s only when you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished in your day or week you recognize- and start to give yourself credit for – the extent of your success in achieving your goals.
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