I’m a goal-setter. I’ll admit that. And my goals have to be concrete.
Some people can make vague or abstract goals, and succeed with them. For example, some people can say, “I am going to lose weight this year”, and will adjust their eating habits and exercise regimens accordingly. Other people might say, “this year, I’m going to write my autobiography”, and come December 31st, it’ll be sitting there completed and bound in leather atop their desks, ready to gather dust.
I’m not one of those people. I can’t make abstract goals like that – I’ll never succeed with them. I think it’s because I’m largely a creature of habit. If I’m going to run for exercise, I have to create a set schedule for when I’m going to run, and how far or for how long I’m going to go. If I’m going to cut down on junk food, I pretty much have to cut out junk food in order to adjust my habits. Now, people who know me know that I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of guy who is big into change – I’ll gladly take on new challenges, move to new countries, and push the envelope with my comfort zone. But when it comes to achieving my goals, I find I am much more likely to see long-term success if I come up with a strong plan for completing them.
One of the ways that I find success with achieving goals is by time-boxing the things I want to do each day. For example, let’s say I want to write a book. That’s a great goal, but without a concrete plan for achieving this goal, it’s probably not gonna get done. But if my goal is important enough for me to allocate just half an hour a day to it, then eventually, unless I die or give up the goal, it’s practically guaranteed to get completed at some point in the future.
The only problem I’ve found with this sort of approach has been prioritizing my time boxes. If you guarantee to yourself that you’re going to get something done every day before you go to sleep at night, you can do it… but if you’re not prioritizing that work within your 24-hour day, you might find that you’re not your optimal self when getting it done. For example, if it’s 1:30 AM and your body is groaning for sleep, you’re likely to spend the half hour you want to spend writing your book staring at the screen and writing stuff like, “brruffmurff.” Or maybe that’s your face landing on the keyboard.
Prioritizing your time boxes
The solution I’ve come up with is to prioritize your time boxes. This means that you know exactly which pieces of work are most important for you to complete on any given day so that you can allocate time to them when you are most productive or at your freshest. For some people, this is during the afternoon, and some people are most productive late at night. For me, I find that in the morning just after breakfast is when I am most productive – and I think a lot of people are the same way. This is after I’ve gone for my morning run, had a fruit smoothie for breakfast, and already have a few sips of coffee in me. That’s when I’m pumped and ready to go.
So here’s my plan: in order to prioritize my daily goals, I’ve decided that I’m not going to use the Internet until my important daily goals have been completed (unless their completion involves using the Internet, of course). I’m also not going to watch any TV before my goals are done – though this shouldn’t be a problem for me as I only watch an hour or two of TV during any given week, and sometimes not even that.
The result of this is that if I don’t get my daily goals done, I’m not surfing the Internet, checking Facebook, reading online forums, watching Walking Dead, or any of that stuff. Maybe I won’t complete all of my specific goals for a given day – stuff happens. But if it does happen, it means I’ve spent a day disconnected from the Internet… and even if I don’t complete my daily goals, how bad could that be?
This is still a relatively new venture, so I haven’t figured out how successful it will make me in the future, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be a great motivator when it comes to helping me complete my daily goals. In fact, my sitting here at my local Starbucks typing up this blog post on the Internet means I’ve already completed my goals for today! And since it’s a concrete thing to say “no Internet or TV until your goals are completed”, as long as I understand what my goals for the day are, it’s going to be an easy habit to fall into.