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Throw a lifeline to your future.

Throw a lifeline to your future.
A lifeline

    It can be pretty discouraging when after a long week of hard work you realize you are not one inch closer to the future you want.

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    Sure, you’ve worked all out, chopping through tasks left, right and center, fulfilling all your (conflicting) roles for various people in your life, and here it Friday, your brain feels like boiled mush and you’re bone tired. What’s worse, you know in your heart of hearts (or Weekly Review) that nothing you’ve done this week is connected to who you want to be, what you really want to achieve, what you really, really, really want your future to look like.

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    There was just too much stuff from now to deal with – too many looming deadlines, urgent requests, upcoming milestones, all those web sites and emails and decisions, choices, alternatives and options. Not to mention all the past stuff – things you wish you had done better, things you wished you’d not done at all. At least, that was my week – how about you?
    Now before the suicide hotlines and liquor stores start seeing a surge in business, I’d like to suggest there’s a solution to this very discouraging problem. It’s simple, but not easy: Throw a lifeline to your future.

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    The purpose of a lifeline is to pull someone from where they don’t want to be – quicksand pit, raging seas, icy pond, the messy present – to where they want to be. In the movies, the brave and valiant rescuers provide the muscle to pull the limp victim to safety; this isn’t the movies. It’s going to be up to you, buckwheat, to throw that lifeline, hook it onto something solid and start pulling with all your might if you want to get into that really nice future.

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    Here’s how I think you can throw a lifeline to your future:

    • Know what future you want. So what do you really want? Look in your heart of hearts for that really big thing you want. Maybe it’s making a million bucks a month, or fulfilling your lifelong ambition, or finding The Right Girl or The Right Guy. Be honest – there’s only you and me here – and I won’t talk. Now write it down where only you will see it. That’s the big beautiful future you want to get your lifeline around so you can pull yourself to it. Refer to it often. Look at it when you go to sleep, look at it when you wake up.
    • Let go of your luggage. That’s right, stick all the emails decaying in your inbox into a new folder, move all the hundreds of documents littering your desktop and My Documents folder to a new folder, drag all those bookmarks and favorites you just had to mark to a new folder, delete all your saved voicemails, bag every task lingering on your to do list older than a week. Heresy! Blasphemy! Nope: Reality. If you want to get to the future you’ve got to let go of the past, and besides, to be brutally honest, what are the chances you are going to deal with all those dead open loops? Slim to none. Lighten your load. So let go.
    • Know that if other people have done it, you can do it. Go visit a bookstore or library’s biography section – find someone you like, that you admire. Get that book and read it. Odds are good it’s going to be a recounting of someone who had it worse that you, who struggled like hell to pull themselves to the life they wanted, the things they believed in. If they did it, so can you. Not convinced? Go buy or check out another biography.
    • Every single day, do one tiny doable thing to make that future happen, and do it the very first thing. You want to write a bestselling novel? Spend 30 minutes a day writing the very first thing you do. Want to run the company you work for? Do one tiny step to towards that future before you do the rest of you job. Want to write a great app you can be proud of? Spend the first 30 minutes learning what you have to learn and doing what you have to do to make that happen. What about all the things you’re supposed to do? They can wait for all of 30 minutes while you do some tiny, but constructive, step for you.

    This last one – doing one tiny thing to make the future you want happen, and doing it first before all the now stuff, is your lifeline to the future. Grab it!

    Bob Walsh writes, codes, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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