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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 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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