It was a bit of a surprise to us to find out that people often fail to pay attention to one important aspect of applying our system. By taking on something like 30 or even more weekly steps they expose themselves to the danger of not finishing any of them.
Sure enough, that’s one very poor use of “GoalBuddy”. Worse though, it opens the door for all kind of plausible excuses why they failed. Today we want to address this by bringing more clarity to the topic of what constitutes an effective weekly task.
It’s good to complete a step but… to what objective?
First, we must get back to the basics by re-examining the context in which we define what a step is.
Our system is founded on the concept that we must have a long-term vision for every major area of our lives. So, we begin by coming up with quarterly strategies in the form of our 90-day action goals. Those, in turn, are achieved through a series of consecutive actions, i.e. every week we make one move in the chosen direction.
It’s time now to trace the line separating a project and a goal.
What is a project?
It is a written down detailed plan. It is something like a big task with its own objectives, resources, and a deadline.
Every single stage of the process must be clearly outlined from the very beginning. The sequence of the actions is pre-set as well as how they are related to each other. Separate phases are predictable in their outcome and can be repeated again and again while following the same procedure and reaching exactly the same result.
Goals, on the other hand, are projects at a higher level of strategy – they aim at realizing the long-term vision. Let’s look further into this.
What is a 90-day goal?
It comprises of several actions. However, there is a major distinction – there is no guarantee or expectation that they will lead us to the exact point stated as the aim. The emphasis is not so much on the outcome but on the action itself.
The 90-day goals are like the uncharted territory on a map. They offer much in terms of exploration which we can do in a variety of different ways. We may go on with new approaches and routes to find out if they are truly ours and if they can bring us closer to our vision.
The weekly step of a 90-day goal
The specific actions we take towards an objective cannot and should not be fully determined in advance. Except when aiming at building a habit the specific actions we take have to emerge and evolve from one week to the next. What drives this is taking into account the lessons learned in the process itself.
One tiny step after another, week after week, and at the end we find ourselves ever closer to our bigger dream. And on top of that, we go through it with ease and confidence.
That seems to be the tricky part which is confusing to so many.
The weekly step is the most crucial thing for the next seven days but it is in no way the only thing we have to do.
It is not a task
If you treat it as such then you can easily make the mistake of taking on dozens of them for a given week. And this will do nothing for your progress.
The risk here is not to see it as the most significant one and, therefore, to lose sight of it amongst all other things on your plate.
A much worse scenario can unfold as well. A step which is so simple and small that it becomes practically useless by contributing almost nothing of value to your intended advancement.
How to make it count
It must be placed well above any other item in your “to do list”. It is mandatory first to finalize the steps of the 90-day goals and only after that take care of everything else.
A well-chosen step should manifest these three signs:
1) it triggers a domino effect;
2) it is a priority but it is not urgent;
3) and it will require from you a disciplined and focused work.
Let’s examine these one by one.
# 1 The Domino Effect
A step could be in the form of one single action (“Make a call to Peter.”), but it should be the beginning and not the end of the story.
It might be quite momentous and thus entail a number of other events that same week. So, what do you do in a case like that!
You can make a list…
One option is to write down all the steps on a piece of paper. Of course, you can use any other suitable application.
This will free your mind from the responsibility to remember every single one of them.
In addition, you will also notice how some of them become non-issues the very next day, or that after 2-3 days they simply get resolved all by themselves. In time, you will get much better at spotting right away the type.
Your ability to prioritize will considerably improve with time. It’s a skill that will boost your productivity reducing the amount of time and effort spent.
…you don’t have to make a list
That’s what Ivan is doing nowadays after years of trying out a number of applications and task management systems.
Here is a brief summary of his unique approach:
Let’s say you just completed a step which is of the “domino” type. Of course, there is no way you can ignore what came out of it as your new re-arranged agenda. It was your idea and you feel more than responsible to bring it to a successful end asap.
But instead of making a list, you go to your calendar and reserve time slots for every one of your new tasks.
So far, we saw how we can do either with or without a list. However, there is one thing that we cannot go without. And it is…
It will help us to stay focused.
As Goal Buddies, the two of us discuss all our steps and then we give each other the much-needed feedback regarding their feasibility and value.
We keep our lists very short so that we focus on only a couple of key things. We also review them every day and therefore there is no chance that we can miss any of them.
This brings us to the second main feature.
# 2 The top priority for the week
It is of great importance, although it is not to be rushed.
That’s the fine distinction that makes it so different from any other task. The weekly step is something we do exclusively for ourselves and therefore there are no deadlines or misplaced expectations.
You want it because of your strong inner strive for personal betterment. You give it a name and meaning and now it is a must for you to have it done. Of course, it’s all in the name of reaching the objective.
But keep in mind this:
He who defends everything defends nothing
There is a very good reason we keep reminding you to minimize the number of goals and their respective steps.
Sure enough, we can get very enthusiastic about a new endeavor but we may very well fail to estimate how realistic or doable it might be on the level of the weekly task. That’s why it’s not unusual to get carried away and decide that we can successfully hit a whole bunch of quarterly targets.
Such a bad idea, right!
There is always the possibility that you simply burn out
Let’s assume that you have 7 goals, then you will be facing 7 steps for the week while each one might set off a number of follow-up actions. As a result, you will soon be overwhelmed by the amount of work you created for yourself. In the end, it’s unlikely that you will get much out of it except for stress and frustration.
It’s wiser to have just 3 steps. Five would be the most and only as an exception.
But how do you decide which is which!
Even if it is not a question of utmost urgency, it is still crucial
There is this one basic notion that we all have to be absolutely clear about – you are the only one who can choose what kind of life to have. It’s yours and yours only to carry the responsibility for those things that give you meaning and purpose.
The good news here is that there is no reason to hurry.
Having a long-term vision and working on it through a system would give you universal know-how of success in pretty much anything you want. There will be times when the focus will be on two or three goals only. The rest will have to wait their turn in the periods to follow. It pays off to be patient about it while channeling your efforts on the few priorities that can get you ahead right now.
And everything else is just to be scheduled for later. For the time being, you have to focus all your attention on these few steps that can get you ahead and closer to your dream.
The value of balance
Deciding how to juggle long-term goals like health, family or carееr may sometimes force you to take on one too many steps which can set the wrong tone for the rest of the week.
Then you may very well find yourself in a bind – one goal, with all of its extra work you’ve done, has crowded out the rest. A painfully familiar example is when you worked too much for the last couple of months and because of that, you couldn’t have enough quality time with your family.
The simple rule of thumb here is that you can do some extra work on a particular step but only if you have completed everything you have for the week. Sure, it’s easier said than done but it will ensure not only a balanced work-load but timely and steady rate of progress.
That’s how we get to talk about the last one.
# 3 You will have to employ a lot of will power
We all know from our experience how those things we want the most are usually worth it.
Our time and energy are resources of limited nature and therefore we’d better think twice how best we use them. One can either put off for later a step with excuses like “too busy at work”, “family emergency”, etc. or roll up their sleeves and get on with the plan for the week. No doubt, the latter will call for all the courage and strength we can summon so that we do our best to succeed.
Anyone can attest to the fact that often times things don’t quite happen for us because we simply fail to apply enough self-control. We either never start or we give up well before the finish line.
The solution is remarkably simple:
Forming a habit must become a goal on its own
Even when a weekly step isn’t of the domino type it should still contribute to your overall growth as a person, i.e. by helping you to form a habit.
For example, Ivan had much trouble keeping up with his fitness schedule when he first addressed in earnest the issue of improving his health. But once he changed the objective from “Losing 10 lbs” to “Going to the gym 3 times a week” things fell into their places.
Nowadays, he doesn’t have to force himself to get to the gym. It’s an “instinct” for him. This also had one more side-effect, namely, it freed some time and opened opportunities which he wouldn’t otherwise have.
“Practice makes perfect”… and the one routine that will make you a winner
A good habit not only saves you time and energy but it can also generate more of them.
Once set some routines of ours, especially those related to health such as hydrating well and having a good rest, don’t require any ongoing work on our part but instead provide a long-term positive effect.
Selecting your next 90-day goal is the right time to think carefully about where and how you can best achieve longer-term objectives with less of an effort.
That’s also one very good way to preserve the balance in our lives.
What to do if you miss a step?
In a perfect world, we would always manage to be on time and hit any deadline. But in the real one, it’s likely that you may fall short from time to time. These are the two options:
1) A poorly defined step will soon become irrelevant and unattainable in its current shape and form. What you do here is, first, to reassess and give it a better formulation with the help your Buddy. And after that, you can start working on it afresh.
2) If you did an excellent job with its definition but there were various difficulties and much delay then you should continue working on it next week.
An ideal step will help you get closer to your greater vision. It can have a domino effect or result in forming a good and valuable habit. Even if it is not urgent it is the most important thing you have to bring to an end. And you will come to the realization it was worth all the sweat and hard work.
It doesn’t matter how well you prepared your step. It’s all about getting it done. And the next one, and the one after it – each one being yet another turn of the “wheel of life”.