There’s a lot of information out there on how to be more productive. Some of it is really useful, and some of it not so much. I’ve tried using a lot of the stuff out there, but only a few things have actually worked for me. One of which is goal setting. And when I say goal setting, I am talking about a clearly defined goal written down on a piece of paper. Not just something you think to yourself and say “It’d be nice to have that.”
There’s something about writing a goal down on a piece of paper that makes us more committed to it. Especially when you put that piece of paper in a place where you see it everyday. But goal setting isn’t what this post is about. This post is about how to achieve your goal once you have already set it, using these two simple steps:
- Create a Plan.
- Then Execute your plan.
When a person sets a goal but fails to achieve it, it’s typically because they don’t follow these two steps. They are either doing only one of the two steps, or (more often than not) are doing neither of them. And whenever they only do one of the two steps, its usually creating the plan that they fail to do. So while its great that they are taking action, a lot of times their actions are ineffective. That’s where the old cliche of “If you fail to plan, your planning to fail” probably comes from.
Its funny to see how many people will go out and do things without first creating a plan. When you watch your favorite football team play, you expect them to have planned for the game. Just like you expect the top executives of the corporation you own stock in to have a business plan they are following. You wouldn’t expect these professionals to do things without carefully planning them out first, so why would you?
When creating your plan, determine the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Then, analyze each of these steps to make sure they’re being done in the smartest way possible. And by smartest, I mean the most logical and efficient manner of doing things (see the Smart vs Intelligent post). Once you have done this, visualize each step in your mind’s eye from beginning to end to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Once your plan is set, you are left with only one thing to do: execute it.
Well since I’ve already used one cliche in this post, I might as well use another. And here it is: “It’s a lot easier said than done.” Executing your plan without letting things or emotions get in your way is not always the easiest thing to do.
Let me give one of my real life examples. My goal is to be healthier. So my plan is to diet and exercise. The steps to my plan are simple. I wake up an hour earlier than normal every morning and go on a jog. And throughout the day I make a conscious effort to eat healthy. Sounds pretty easy right? Wrong! At least for me, when the alarm goes off early in the morning, resisting that snooze button is tough. And after I surmount that, I face the challenge of eating healthy (or avoiding eating unhealthy). My mind starts to populate with excuses like “Oh, you jogged this morning. You’ve already burned all the calories in those french fries.” It’s like there’s a constant battle going on in my head. Needless to say, my will power is tested.
And that is why having a plan is so important. The steps in your plan become orders for you to carry out. You don’t make any decisions on your feet (where your emotions can cloud your judgment) because the decisions have already been made. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t revise your plan later on if necessary. But just be sure the revisions are indeed necessary and not just your emotions looking for an easy way out.