These days it seems like everyone had grand goals and plans. We set these grand goals for ourselves and our businesses, I’m going to get 1,000 new customers, I’m going to lose 50 pounds, I’m going to learn a new language, I’m going to learn to paint, I’m going to create a giant webinar series, and so on. We’ve all gotten great at creating these “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” thanks to Jim Collins & Jerry Porras and their book from 1995, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.
But, beyond our BHAGs, we also have dozens, or hundreds, or smaller goals. We become slaves to our to-do lists. I am a charter member of that group. I have stacks of projects and things I want to do. Finish building the house (really, after nearly 4 years living here I still haven’t finished my office, all the fencing, the barns, or the basement), learn new skill sets such as woodworking, read more, play more games with friends, go fishing more often, build a boat, visit our daughter, and this list doesn’t even touch “work” related tasks. Find more clients, learn new tools, test new marketing ideas, go to more conferences, the list seems nearly endless.
We have created all of these micro-goals in an effort to get to our BHAGs. And in the process, our micro-goals have created an environment where we find ourselves overwhelmed, sometimes even crippled, by the sheer volume of all the things that we need to do. We “burn out”, we fail, we give up on our goals.
We fail because we are constantly looking at what has not been done “yet” rather than what we have accomplished.
We fail because we put so much pressure on ourselves to be Instagram perfect every day.
We fail because we believe that inspirational slogans on Pinterest are orders rather than guides.
We fail because we are spending so much time worrying about what our future self may think of us, that we forget to take current us into consideration.
How Do We Learn To Live With Our Goals?
1. Make your goals achievable
I love the BHAGs that we all set. They are a great way to look at things in the long term and allow you to think in broad strokes. But, along with these broad goals, we need to be mindful of creating smaller, achievable goals that will help us reach the BHAG. Being the CEO of respected marketing agency isn’t reachable if you don’t have an early goal of just hiring ONE person.
2. Limit your major goals
I suffer from shiny object syndrome. I want to do all the things. At one point I had four whiteboards packed with goals and plans and ideas for my ‘next thing’. I ended up doing ‘none’ of those things, at least not very well. Hobbies and relaxation don’t fall into this category. What does fall into it are real goals. I’ve found that, for me, keeping myself limited to three major goals at any one time is the most I can manage. For you, it may be 5, or 1. But, whatever that number is, do not add any new BHAGs without clearing away one of the others first.
This keeps you from saying yes to things that are not as important to you. As new major goals come into your life, ask yourself, am I willing to give up one of my current goals for this new goal? If yes, then switch it out, of no, set it aside. But do NOT add it to the list of goals.
3. Keep a to-do list, but don’t look at it
The most liberating thing I ever did with my to-do list was to stop looking at any day that wasn’t today. Close the tomorrow tab, close the next week tab, close the month tab. Only ever look at “Today”. You will find yourself staying focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished today rather than worrying about the tasks you need to complete later in the week.
What works best for me is to look at the entire week’s to-do/goal list on Monday morning just to familiarize myself with it. Then I close all the tabs. When I clear every task on that day’s to-do list I take a quick look at tomorrow. If it’s early, or I’m feeling particularly productive that day, I knock out a next day task early. Or maybe I take the time I have and grab a book, or I go fishing, or I head out to the workshop and put some extra time into my woodworking. But, in all cases, I can do it without guilt because I know that I have already completed all of my tasks for the day and I’m free from my schedule until tomorrow.
Focus on Today
Learn to focus on today. Take life in smaller, manageable pieces. Today is light. Today is easy. Carrying the weight of all those tomorrows can crush anyone. If you plan your goals and tasks as stepping stones to larger goals you don’t need to worry about tomorrow, today will get you there.