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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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