Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More Thoughts on Goal Setting

1) Keep a master to-do list. You can keep this in your overall planning notebook/calendar if you have one. Or you can carry a small notebook with you throughout your day to jot down ideas. Organize this list anyway you find to be useful.

This list is where you jot down items you'd like to accomplish, but not necessarily today. For example, let's say you go to your storage area to put one item away. While there, you notice that the entire space could use a good dusting and re-organizing. But, it's not on your agenda right now, and there are other, more pressing needs at hand. Jot down, "Clean storage space" on your master list, and list all of the separate steps you'll need to do a good job. Review your master list later on, and work these steps into your future daily to-do lists. It's good to give yourself some sort of deadline so that "Clean storage space" doesn't stay on your master list forever.

What are the advantages of a master to-do list?
a. It helps you get ideas down on paper, so that you can clear your mind and you can focus on the tasks that need doing right now.
b. It's invaluable when you find yourself unable to sleep because you're excited about some project. If you toss and turn while mentally planning your project, get out of bed. Jot down your exciting ideas on your master to-do list, and let these ideas go for the night. Crawl back into bed and get a good night sleep.
c. It captures good ideas so that you don't forget about them.
d. This can serve as a tool for brainstorming. If you write down whatever comes to mind, you can take time later to evaluate your goals. For example, if in a fit of spring fever, you jot down, "Paint bedroom buttercup yellow", you have the freedom to cross that off your list if you change your mind later on.

2) Follow the Rule of Three. Since I made this rule up, I arbitrarily chose the number 3. Put in your a number of your own choosing, provided that you keep it small.

Here's the principle: If you have a lot to do, pick three things you want to accomplish. These can be little things or big, super important things or just things that could use some attention. Don't think too much about which three you choose. Then, do those three things without being side-tracked by anything else.

Once you've accomplished those three things, be thankful. Then, if you have time and strength, choose three more things and do them and so on. You'll find your momentum building, and you'll get more done than you ever thought you would.

When to use this rule:
If you're playing catch-up, say after the holidays or when a new baby is in the home or after you've been ill, this helps you whittle away at things until you start to feel more on-top of your tasks.
If you are in a situation in which you have limited time or strength, say if there's an unusual family medical emergency going on, this allows you to focus on just a few things that need doing without feeling that you must keep up with your usual schedule. If all you get done are three things, congratulate yourself.
Planning experts suggest that we prioritize our daily to-do list according to #1 most important task #2 most important task and so on. They suggest that you work down the list so that you get the most important things done. In that way, whatever you don't get done will be of low priority, and you can either decide not to do it at all or to move it to the next day's to do list. This is a fantastic time management principle. However, some of us have days when it seems to us that everything on our to do list is a #1, and we have trouble putting our tasks in order of most important to least important. In that case, following the rule of 3 helps you at least get started. Generally, by the time you've gone through a few cycles of accomplishing 3 tasks, the priorities for your day will come into sharper focus. At that point, you can switch to the traditional prioritized to-do list.


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