I wrote an article about some of my favourite productivity apps earlier this year. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to try many of them. Sometimes, a friend would recommend an app and I would try it out just to see what features it has and rate its ease of use.
A few weeks ago, someone who read my article told me they had downloaded all the apps I had recommended and were using them all. I thought this was unnecessary and most likely would result in decreased productivity for him. I asked him which was his favourite among the apps he had tested so far? He chose Evernote. I recommended he stick with that and leave the rest for now. Evernote is likely to meet his personal productivity needs.
There are broadly two ways to get any project done:
You could dedicate a lot of time and effort to get it done in a single burst.
You could do it in small bits that you can manage for short periods of time.
The first method might work for short duration tasks such as rearranging a book shelf, washing your clothes, or ironing your outfits for the upcoming week. It won’t be feasible for longer term projects such as writing a novel, reaching a sales target or saving enough to buy a house. It is not likely you would be able to sit down and produce 60,000 words of a first draft in a single day no matter how committed you are. You are also not likely to be able to reach all your potential customers in a single day. That’s why you come up with a longer term sales strategy.
Many Nigerians want to be rich. Wanting to be rich is not a bad thing. In a Country like Nigeria where infrastructure can be quite poor, having money is the only way to ensure you can cushion yourself against poor power supply, healthcare and expensive food. One could argue that wanting to escape the poverty trap is a very good motivator. A focus on being just rich, however, risks missing the point of personal development. Being rich is an event. What you need to focus on is a process.
The quote above was a popular one during my primary school days. Teachers used it to warn us about the dangers of keeping bad company and the influence of peer pressure. Although, I also recall them using it to warn us to stay away from noise makers in class. The influence of peer pressure in one’s life can be enormous.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most amount of time with.”
How many decisions do you have to make a day? The average person has to make about 35,000 choices every day. At first glance, that doesn’t seem right. Surely, you aren’t faced with that many decisions on a daily basis? Wait. Think about it. When you wake up, you get out of bed, which foot do you swing down the side of the bed first? Left foot or right foot? When you brush your teeth, which side do you start from? Which tooth do you brush first? Do you stroke upwards, downwards or sideways? Fortunately for us, most of the decisions we make on a daily basis are almost automatic. The brain uses the habit loop to allow you do routine tasks like brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, driving to work without having to consciously think about it. It doesn’t mean you aren’t making decisions. Only that they occur on a near subconscious level.
The old adage about taking things one step at a time seems too simplistic to be of any use. Yet, many great truths have a comforting simplicity about them. Picture this. You come up with a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG). Your BHAG is so great that it sometimes scares you. That’s the point of a BHAG though. It has to be a kind of go big or go home idea. You have a perfect vision of the end product of your goal yet you fail to achieve that goal because you could never get started.
Many times, what stops us from working towards a goal is fear of the unknown. We know what we want, we are just not sure how to get there so we keep procrastinating and the goal never gets achieved. In Eat that Frog, Brian Tracy describes how it is possible to drive across the Sahara by following oil drums 5km apart. This is the maximum distance at which two barrels could be seen such that during the day, a person driving would be able to see two drums, the one in front and the one behind them. In this way, they could safely drive across the sahara one oil drum at a time.
I had an interesting conversation with some of the young people I mentor at Paradigm Initiative. About a third of the current class wrote their UTME exams not too long ago. Before the exams I asked them what their short term goals were. Naturally, all UTME candidates mentioned getting into the University to study a course (of their choice?).
Smiling, I let them know while getting into the university can be a huge stepping stone to greater things, their short term goal was not a very good one. It’s easy to say “My goal is to pass UTME and get admission into BUK to study economics.” It sounds good and you seem focused. However, it fails to meet one very important criteria for good goal setting. The statement is not actionable. Go back and read it again carefully.