It’s halfway through the year. July 1st. But you knew that already.
How is it working out for you? Are you on track to achieving what you wanted to do at the start of the year?
Sometimes it feels like we’ve just drifted – that time goes increasingly quickly. Part of that, according to a neuroscientist friend of mine, is how our brain processes time as we age.
So, are you doing ok? And if not, what can you do about it in the next six months? If yes, what can you do better?
Is what you do aligned with your goals?
We build castles and lives with one brick, one action at a time. I get distracted by lots of things – ideas, activities, possibilities. How should you choose what to do at any time?
The answer is probably not to spend time choosing. Instead you should create daily routines, rituals that are aligned with your goals.
That’s age old advice for writers, for example. Write at the same time every day, with the same tools, following the same process.
If you want to get healthy, lose weight, create a ritual that involves going to the gym in the morning. Do a set routine.
Don’t spend time trying to think about what you’re going to do when tired and bleary eyed in the morning. Just get your clothes on and get out the door.
At work, is what you’re doing aligned with what you’ve been asked to do? More importantly, are you working on stuff that makes you better, more valuable?
If so, create a ritual where you spend the hours before lunch working on valuable stuff, and the time after lunch working on administrivia.
Create and follow rituals and you’ll make good progress.
Remove everything that isn’t helping you move in the right direction
I find it very easy to get distracted by a new system, a new way of doing something, nice paper, a software package, something I code myself to do a task.
Sometimes this is good. Sometimes I need to allow myself to do something that doesn’t have a point, just because my brain won’t stop nagging me until I do it.
Checking Facebook or LinkedIn isn’t one of those things.
The problem with having devices that let you look at your digital world anywhere is that you look at your digital world everywhere.
And that’s just not necessary.
We need big blocks of focused time to do good work. The only way to get big blocks is to remove distractions, by reducing what can get into our world in the first place.
Willpower doesn’t work. Think you can avoid reaching for your phone when you take a break? Think you can avoid chocolate?
The only way is to stop having it available at all. If there is no mail on your phone, then you can’t check it. If there is no chocolate in the house, you can’t eat it.
Stay on track by writing layered goals and actions
How do you know you’re doing well? And how can you correct yourself.
The best way to do this is by writing it down. And then writing it down again.
The formal term for this is reflection, or reflective practice – looking back at your own experiences to learn from them.
One tactic that works well is to write layered goals. Start with the year – what are all the things you want to achieve next year.
Then think about the month ahead. What do you want to do next month?
Next plan the week ahead. What are you going to do?
Finally, what are you going to achieve tomorrow?
Finally – make specific plans.
Researchers have shown that we think about lots of goals much of the time. We can hold things we want to do – from sorting out the washing to completing a merger and these thoughts mix and intrude when we’re trying to focus.
In essence, things we haven’t done interfere with what we’re doing right now. So, we need to get specific – which means that we need to say how and when we’re going to do something,
Breaking that down – let’s say you have a list of things you want to do tomorrow. Say you want to clear out the garage. Is it enough to write that down?
Not if you want to get it done. What you want to do is get down to the precise next action and then time-block it.
So, that means getting clear that at 10:15 tomorrow, you’re going to box up all the junk on the left hand side of your garage, put it in the car and take it to the recycling yard.
Or something on those lines.
There’s six months still left to turn things around, so if you aren’t on track already, the best time to start is now.