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How to Set an Appointment With Yourself

How to Set an Appointment With Yourself
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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:

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    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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