Do you feel busy? Do feel like you’re doing a lot of things, but nothing really gets done? You’re doing a lot of hard work, but you’re not getting any closer to your goals. So you work harder. You’ve heard the phrase, “work smarter, no harder,” but it’s a little vague. Let me help clarify that for you. Do only a few things, the things that really matter, and eliminate everything else. In order to do that, you need to plan.
Reading through the book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown, has influenced a lot of how I plan and do things. We spend a lot of our time and energy doing things that don’t really matter. This happens either by default because we’ve unintentionally built those habits into our lives, or they happen by urgency because we pay attention to what is right in front of us now.
We let the habitual and the urgent dictate our lives, rather than intentionally choosing the important. Yet if we could focus the majority of our energy into the few things that really have an impact, we could achieve far more than we ever realized. Here are some basic steps to getting there.
1. What is Most Important to You in Life?
Start by thinking on a big scale. At the end of your life, what do you want to accomplish? What kind of person do you want to become, and what do you want to be known for? A good exercise to determine this is to write your own obituary. I know, it sounds morbid, but it’s also very life-giving. It helps you clearly identify the life you want to live.
Also ask yourself what you want to be spending your time doing. Don’t think about it day to day, but think about it in terms of years. For the next 10 years of your life, how many months or years do you want to spend with family? How much time with work? I bet it’ll help put into perspective where you invest your time.
2. How Will You Achieve Your Goals?
Life goals aren’t achieved overnight. Like training for a marathon, it takes time and incremental progress. You don’t start out by running the whole thing. You run a fraction of the distance – consistently – and gradually increase over time.
How many months or years will it take to reach certain goals? What are the milestone markers to indicate progress? If your goal is financial freedom or more time with family or health, what will it look like to achieve it? If you have a clear measure of success, then you can clearly measure progress. Split up your end goals into milestones of where you should be along the way.
3. What is Absolutely Necessary to Reach Those Goals?
With those milestones, take time to intentionally plan and review. If you don’t plan, you wander aimlessly or waste time on the wrong things. If you don’t review, you have a false sense of success or failure. Here’s my schedule:
I take time to plan every morning and review every evening. From there, I lump my planning and review sessions together. I do this once a week, once a month, once a every 3 months, and once a year. It ranges from my personal development, spiritual journey, marriage, and my business plans.
So what do I do during those times? I try to focus it on one thing – figuring out what’s essential. When planning, it’s so easy to out a million things on the to-do list and come up short every time. Yet when I think through my goals and have a clear focus on them, I realize that the majority of my plans are non-essential. Many of the actions I do distract me from my goals, while only a few actually get me there.
So I take the time to filter. I think through the actions that are essential and most effective towards achieving my goals, and eliminate everything else that isn’t.