Daniel Gold guest posts today. I’m a fan for several reasons. First, his wife homeschools and Daniel thinks moms are the busiest people on earth. Second, he is the author of a book on Springpad that I absolutely love, and finally, because he has a way writing about productivity that makes it all seem simple. Be sure to pick up a copy of the free resources he’s created!
Every January, we resolve to make this year the best year ever. We resolve to lose an extra five pounds, go to the gym more, and of course, be more productive by finding the perfect app and system to keep us on track. Not surprisingly, weight loss centers, gyms, and office supply stores love our new found commitments and resolutions. But, something happens to most of us come February (for some of us, much sooner) – we recoil and settle back to our old ways, declaring that we’re just fine and life is too busy for us to continue and you will start it back up when things get slower. But we don’t, and life never slows down.
You might think that these long-term personal goals have nothing to do with how we get things done with our daily tasks and with the appointments we keep in our busy lives, but they are so very much interconnected.
Think of our lives like climbing Mount Everest. Our everyday action items are like the base camp at the bottom of the mountain (i.e., “Call Bob”, “Buy milk”, “Email Susie”, “Write a new blog post”), and as we climb up the mountain, we get to our higher levels of commitments in our lives (i.e., Go to the gym; Where do I want to be personally and professionally at this time next year, and the next 3-5 years). I liken reaching the summit peak of the mountain to being able to answer the ultimate question: what is the purpose of my life? Why do I exist? The unfortunate reality is that, we find every reason not to put action items into our weekly calendar to work on these. So, how do we get off the base camp and get to the summit peak?
It starts with our intentions and ends with our desire to really do something about truly wanting to change. Therefore, this might surprise you, but it just doesn’t matter what app you use or what notebook you buy, and it most certainly doesn’t matter whether you GTD, ZTD, GSD, 1MTD, Eisenhower, Kanban, or believe in Emotion-based Contexts. What matters is how you think about your goals, projects, and tasks. For any one of us to change a behavior, we must want to change that behavior and truly believe that the reason we resolved to commit to a project or a goal is because there’s a purpose. This is something that no system and app can do for any of us.
I propose two things that we can all do to commit to getting things done better, both at the base camp and at the summit peak of the mountain: writing it all down and reviewing it often.
Writing it all down
Take a moment offline and write down every commitment you can think of until your brain hurts! Then write down everything you’d like to commit yourself to; whether they be big projects, chairing an event at your child’s school, planning a vacation, or (and, this is something I really encourage you to do) answering the big question about why you think you exist and what your purpose is here in life. Then, with your projects and goals, write down every action item you can possibly think of that would need to go right in order for you to accomplish these items. The key here is to ensure that, every week and every month, you are assigning yourself tasks that will help you get these things done. Tens of thousands have looked to me on how to do it in Evernote and Springpad, but truth be told, you could buy a fancy notebook, or even a .99 1-subject notebook you buy at the pharmacy. The point is to get it all down, and know that this is where you will go to capture, organize, review, and look to do when doing everything in your life.
To help with creating long lasting and sustainable habits in our lives, I created a free workbook called Creating Successful Habits TODAY!, which will help you commit to 3 to 5 new habits. Simply write these down, and each day that you do it, you simply put a check mark by that day. At the end of the week, you write down your reflections about what went right and where you had challenges. After doing this for four weeks, I can tell you that you will be well on your way to being successful with this new habit.
I’m a big believer in performing daily, weekly, and monthly sweeps of my action items and project lists. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do when you wake up in the morning or walk into the office, you’ve already lost the battle. Create a list the night before, or at least before you check your e-mail first thing in the morning with the most important tasks you need to do for that day. I created another free download, something I like to call a “Morning Map” that lists out 3 to 5 things that you must absolutely get done that day, in order for your day to be successful. Having it right in front of you like this in big bold fonts and bright red colors reminds you to not only fill it out, but stares right at you to ensure you stay on track.
At the end of every week, look back at your commitments, at open loops which you will need to close during the week ahead. Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? If so, that is awesome. If not, perhaps take a moment to reflect on what could go better next week. Then, write down everything you want to get done in the week ahead. But, be certain to include tasks that will move you forward to your 1, 3-5, and life goals. Again, writing them down is one thing; but, you must find ways throughout the month to take action on them or it was for naught. Finally, at the end of every month, perform the same kind of sweep you did at the end of each week. This time, look at it with a different prism; look inwardly at who you were this past month, what you accomplished, and what you could do better at in order to achieve your bigger goals in life. Be certain to plan for your month ahead with the same vigor as you were doing for each week.
Resolve to Create a Better Version of You Every Day
The whole idea here is to keep yourself accountable to yourself! Like our New Year’s resolutions, they will never get done unless we make it our true intention to do so. I can assure you that with the right mindset, focus, and desire to look at our action list, project list, and life goals in this way, we can make a positive difference not only in the here and now, but in your future as well! Positivity begets more positivity, and you will become an even bigger source of inspiration to your family, friends, and colleagues!