Do you find yourself amazed at how quickly the months pass? Do you find yourself in a small panic over all you know you have to do and how little you feel you are actually accomplishing? Join the crowd! We live in a busy world where our time, priorities and energy are constantly challenged. The reality is that there is simply not the time for everything and we don’t have enough energy to complete everything.
What do we do? There are 5 simple steps to create greater success by managing our time and getting things done in business and life that are important.
EVALUATE. What do I really want? Where am I headed? What am I doing now?
GET REAL. What is really important that will impact and support your long term goals the best? What is not important? What is distracting me? What is not really supporting my long term goal?
PLAN. What do I need to do to accomplish my goal? What are the KEY action steps? How will I do this? What schedule or strategy will keep me focused?
FOCUS. Whom do you need to be and what structures do you need to have to accomplish this (mindset, attitude, accountability)?
MONITOR/EVALUATE. Am I doing little, unimportant things? Am I procrastinating? What is working/ what is not? How could I streamline what I am doing?
What happens with good intentions and goals…
Plans begin as ideas in our heads; we desire to have or do something. The key to the success of the idea is a plan. You know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Sometimes our ideas will make it to paper in the form of a SMART goal and sometimes not. If we do write a goal, sometimes we will create some action steps, but rarely do we take the time to thoroughly think through what actions are actually needed at each stage to accomplish the goal completely. Sometimes people will start planning and get overwhelmed at how much work it will actually take or get overwhelmed with the process and give up. Often our goals remain our dreams because we fail to carve out time to make them a reality.
A management tip is to create a plan from start to finish. With this plan, decide if you have the time, energy, resources and desire to bring it to completion. Next, estimate HOW LONG each task will actually take. It is common to underestimate how much time each step will take and therefore it never gets done. Remember, if you are going to add something to your schedule, you must also plan to say “No!” to something else to make time to accomplish your goal.
Step 1: EVALUATE…
To create an effective plan, begin with a careful evaluation. Most people are constantly evaluating their present state without much problem. We are constantly assessing, “What do I really want right now?” We look at things around us and talk about what we would like to be different in our life. We talk about our goals, New Year’s Resolutions, current intentions, etc. We often state them as fact and sincerely intend to accomplish those in our life. We see how they would make a positive difference and desire for them to happen. There is a small percentage of people who also evaluate the questions, “Where am I headed?” and “What will it take for me to get there?” Evaluation is a tool that allows you to anchor where you are now, determine where you want to go and create markers along the way to ensure you stay on course. Without a longer-term vision, we tend to react to current situations, “I need to make more money, I need to lose weight, I need to get this business off the ground, etc.” This leads to wandering through life without focus or purpose. Evaluate the present and then also evaluate the future and what it would take to get there.
Step 2: GET REAL…
Then, get real. Does this fit in with where you are headed with your long term goals in your life? What is doing this going to get you? What is the cost (consider time, money, energy, emotional, etc.) Are you willing to pay it? If you do really want this, what is it going to be important that you do? What is distracting you from making this happen?
Identify Key Result Items:
- Write exactly where you are headed and what this is going to get you.
- Identify what you will have to do and write that down.
- Identify what you will have to say “no” to and commit to 3 things you will have to stop to make this happen. Identify what this will “cost” and write down how you will “pay” for it. (This is not just financial, it may be something intangible like – COST: time with the family, PAYMENT: work later during the week, but home Friday for dinner and family day Saturday.)
- Identify 5 main distractions and how you can eliminate those.
Step 3: PLAN…
Next, plan what it will take to make this happen. You already have some Key Result Items from your Get Real Exercise. Take those and add to the list other ideas of what you know you will need to do to accomplish your goal. What are the specific action steps you will need to take? Stop a minute and in your mind focus on your long term goal. See it in full and complete form. What is there? What are you doing? What do you notice about yourself and your actions? Now, in your mind walk backward what did you do to get there? For example, if part of my long term goal is to have a thriving independent business, I may visualize myself in an office with the flexibility to be remote. Part of what I would need to do is establish an office, design portable systems, have a virtual assistant, have tools and resources for office work, etc. This becomes one Key Result Area: A functional Office. Then I walk backward and plan steps I would have taken to create this functional office. Put dates on each broken-down action step and estimate what it will take to make each step happen (time, cost, etc.). Allocate completion targets accordingly.
Step 4: FOCUS…
Now that you have your plan flushed out and in place, whom do you need to be to accomplish this? Going back to your vision of your completed goal, what mindset and attitude did you have throughout the project? How did you do this? What schedule or strategy kept you focused? What systems of accountability did you have in place? What kept you on track and focused? One of the most common errors people make is IF they get their plan complete, they begin work and get caught up in the rush of life again and start reacting and forget about their plan. When you created your plan you were looking at the big picture. When you are working in the trenches of life, you are limited to see what is in front of you, unless you stick to the plan. There is nothing wrong with evaluating and refining your plan as you go, but only when you are looking at it in the perspective of the whole picture and not the short term moment. The story is told about the caravan crossing the Sahara desert. The desert was barren and large. Many parties got lost crossing the great plains as they could not see their destination over the horizon. A team went in and put in markers for travelers to focus on as they crossed so they would use each marker as a point of reference until they could see the city. This allowed many parties to cross the treacherous desert in the most direct and efficient path. This is your plan. Plan it well, establish milestones to focus on, trust them and stay the course!
Step 5: MONITOR…
Step back occasionally and evaluate what you are doing. Go back to step one. How are you doing? What is working what is not? Are you on track or off course? Make adjustments to get on track, re-design what is not working to new solutions and refine the plan in areas that would increase efficiency or results toward your goal. Keep your long-term goal in mind and check to make sure your short term goals are supporting the long term goals. Notice your behavior. Accomplishing big goals is hard work. Plan first and keep your eyes on the preset short term goal that position you to reach your bigger vision.
None of these strategies are rocket science. The challenge is to maintain the discipline, focus, and clarity to implement these basic strategies. Evaluate your long term goal, be realistic, plan, set structures for focus and have checkpoints to monitor. Invest your time in your plan and maintain the course once it is set. If you are serious about these goals, take action today. Ensure your success by developing an accountability system for yourself. Hire a coach as your strategic partner to run with you. Find a buddy in a similar situation. Whatever it is, build environments to support your vision. Take the time to plan and design structures for success and you will see a difference! Here’s to you and your success! Have fun!