Everyone is an expert at wishing for exactly what they want. The student who refuses to study until a day to the exam wishes for an A. The man who refuses to exercise wishes for a muscular figure. Some people go a step further to write down what they wish for. It’s called a New years’ resolution. After that, nothing changes because nothing happens.
For most people, what stops them from acting on their plans is not a lack of interest or a willingness to change. It is a lack of self-discipline. It takes great mental power to be able to say “No” to lying down at home instead of going to the gym.
One of the easiest things in life is to do nothing. No challenges mean no reward and no fear of failure. It is possible to get by in life without being concerned about the future. Making decisions only when circumstances compel you to and reacting to situations only when you don’t have the choice of staying idle. For a long time in humanity’s history, people were only concerned about being able to feed themselves and surviving. As long as that need was met, they were happy. While that life still remains the norm in many parts of the world, including where I come from, as conditions of living continue to improve, people will seek other ways to find fulfilment.
It’s the last Thursday of 2020. As I sit here to think about everything that has happened during the year, one feeling I get is how long it seems. We have all had to deal with a lot of stress this year. The Pandemic is still ongoing. We are facing a second wave of infections. 2019 seems like such a long time ago.
Like many of you, I started the year with many ideas and plans. Unfortunately, Corona had other ideas. I endured months of lockdown. By the time the first Quarter was over, I was starting to realise there was no way things could continue as usual. I had to accept my Personal Development Plan for the year had to change. The “New normal” was affecting everyone and everything.
It seems counterproductive to suggest you should not spend too much time planning for the future. Productivity is all about making plans and breaking them down into as many small steps as possible so you can follow through. Let me make it clear that I am not saying you should stop making plans and just wing it. I’d never do it and I’d never ask you to try that too.
There is such a thing as a planning horizon though. If you plan too far ahead into the future, you are more likely to be wrong. Experts tend to agree that a planning horizon beyond two weeks is likely to be wrong. Most people have a pretty good idea where they will be for the rest of the week but don’t do so well when trying to predict where they will be a month or two from now. Life throws up so many complications and unexpected events that you are likely to be wrong. An extreme example of this happened early this year. People made plans. The pandemic wrecked those plans.
The secret to having a productive week is simple: Plan your week in advance. A lot of people spend the weekends having fun and resting. That’s OK. Taking time to rest is an essential part of staying productive. However, taking 15 minutes every Sunday evening to plan your week can give your life much needed direction.
Make a list of the tasks you wish to accomplish during the week. Assign those tasks to the days you intend to work on them. That’s it.
Craig Jarrow of Time Management Ninja said “I don’t have time isn’t an excuse. Rather, it is a choice to do something else.” Each day, you face a multitude of choices. Writing a to-do list is a choice. Doing the tasks you write is another choice.
It is likely that your long term goal has some very large numbers in it. Suppose your goal was to write a novel. According to quora, the average novel has 5,300 sentences. I will be generous and round that up to a nice 6,000. The thought of writing 6,000 sentences is enough to give most people pause and stop them from ever getting started.
“Don’t tempt me with that delicious cake. I’m on a diet.”
“So what? You can always start over tomorrow.”
“But this is the fourth time this year.”
Something I wrote to make a point
It’s easy to start a task. People do it all the time. At the beginning of each year, people start writing novels only to give up after a few weeks. Some start exercising or dieting but lose their resolve after a few days and revert to their old habits. Building a new habit is just like a marathon. Many people will be at the starting line. Some will drop out after some time. A few will actually cross the finish line.
Most people make resolutions and plans in good faith. They actually want to improve their capacity or get more done. The problem lies in their mindset. They believe just wanting it should be enough. They make the plans and create the checklists. So far, so good. Now, if they could only actually start and keep doing it. It’s not easy to make a commitment to do every important task on your to-do list when due. There will be days when you encounter resistance.
A google search for define priority yields the following result:
Note the example sentence “”the safety of the country takes priority over any other matter.” Also note the similar phrases: prime concern, first concern and most important consideration. The interesting thing to note about these examples is that they are all SINGULAR. There is no mention of priorities, prime concerns, first (,second and third) concernsor most important considerations.
Have you ever thought about quitting something? Before the thought crosses your mind, no I am not quitting this blog. Every day, people face a great deal of pressure. I have heard expressions like winners never quit and you are not a loser until you quit trying. Quotes like that may be good for motivation but telling a person to never quit may turn out to be bad advice.