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When you’re deep inside a jungle, your vision is blocked by the trees. In order to plan a route, you need to break out of the dense forest and see the entire landscape. Similarly, if you’re thick in the jungle of your own life, you might not be able to see much beyond next week. Setting an appointment with yourself can give you the broader perspective of what you’re doing to help make changes.

The problem is that if you don’t structure a personal appointment carefully, it becomes a waste of time. The purpose of an appointment with yourself is to gather information and make plans that go beyond solving the immediate crises of the day. Meditating and practicing Zen chants might be great, but your appointment needs to be run with a focus.

What Should a Personal Appointment Cover?

Your personal appointment should answer several key questions:

  1. What are the results I’m getting in the different areas of my life?
  2. What mistakes am I making frequently?
  3. What do I need to stop?
  4. What extra energy/money/time do I have to invest?
  5. Where would that investment create the best returns?

Unstructured diary entries can give you an idea of your emotional state, but lack the structure necessary to really tackle these questions. Here’s how you can answer those four questions:

Question One: What Are My Results?

You need to have access to feedback from every area of your life. This means your health, business, finances, career, relationships and learning all need a yardstick to see how you’re doing. Where you can get accurate numbers, use them. If you can’t get accurate numbers, get your best estimate of the situation.

Why Gathering Results is Crucial

Gathering up your results gives you a complete picture of your life at one moment in time. When you’re engaged with the trees of your daily routine, you can’t see the entire forest. Gathering the results gives you the best idea of where you’ve made progress, where you’ve made mistakes and what needs work.

Question Two: What Mistakes Am I Making Frequently?

Blogger Ben Casnocha has said that he would rather learn a persons frequent mistakes then their biggest mistakes. Big mistakes may not happen again and the lessons are usually burned into you.

Frequent mistakes, are what you really need to watch out for. Continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again shows a lack of understanding. You are failing to understand a system that is governing your results. Relationships ending for the same reasons, financial blunders repeated and business mistakes that cost you time, money or sanity need to be looked at.

During your personal appointment, you should be looking for patterns in any mistakes you are making. Pattern recognition is the key to develop solutions. While losing on one big investment may hurt you, it might not have been avoidable. However, losing medium amounts on a dozen similar investments might show that you are making the same mistake.

Question Three: What Do I Need To Stop?

Pick the weakest investments your making and periodically stop some of them. Unless you can free up time for new pursuits, you will be stuck in the same routine.

Look at how you spend your time. Watching television, socializing with friends, working on a project or belonging to different clubs. Determine out of all these different investments, which has the least benefits. Which offers the least entertainment, profit or advancement towards your goals?

Kill the worst ways you spend your time, money and energy.

Question Four: What Extra Can I Invest?

How much extra time/money/energy do you have? If you are regularly killing off lower quality investments, you should have a small amount extra. The next step is to figure out how much you have to invest.

Becoming over-motivated and trying to take on too much at once can lead to a nervous breakdown. Taking on too little and your spare time gets filled with boring junk. Make your best estimate of the extra time you have available.

Question Five: What Should I Invest In?

This is the most important question of your personal appointment. It is the key to making big changes that can have a huge impact. Small changes in your investment or investment strategy can lead to massive results over time.

Here are some suggestions if you aren’t sure what might be a good investment with your energy, money or time:

  1. Habits. Overview the habits that run your life. What you eat, when you sleep, whether you exercise and how you work. Decide to invest some of your energy in changing just one of them for the next month.
  2. Learning. Pick up several books on a topic you want to know more about. It could be a practical topic that will build expertise in your field. Or it can be information outside your expertise to build broader understandings.
  3. Social. Join a club, spend time with new people or building existing relationships. Decide what you are going to do to improve the quality of time you spend with other people.
  4. Project. Start a new project, business or hobby. Personal projects often get pushed aside when you get busy. But the value of these projects can be tremendous. Without a personal appointment, most of my projects never would have gotten off the ground.
  5. Goals. Set a new goal to pursue. How can you hit a target you don’t even have?

Credit to Steve Pavlina for concept of making an appointment with yourself.

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