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Achieve Your Goals by Focusing on Critical Activities

Achieve Your Goals by Focusing on Critical Activities

    What are your critical activities? Critical activities are those activities that directly move you towards your goals.  Every goal has critical activities.  The problem is that most of us spend significant amounts of time doing things that are not critical.  Often we convince ourselves that they are something we ‘need’ to do to be successful, but usually they are things that are not critical.

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    Step #1 – Identify your goals

    You can’t know what the critical activities are if you don’t first have a clear understanding of what your goals are.  You need to understand where you are going before you can know how to get there. Go beyond just labeling something as your goal, get a grip on WHY you want to achieve your goal.  Before you plan how to get to your vacation destination you first need to know where you are going and what you want to do when you get there.  Your destination is your goal, and what you want to do when you get there is your WHY.

    Step #2 – List major outcomes needed to achieve your goal

    For each goal make a list of the outcomes that you need to complete in order reach that goal. These outcomes should be the major results that lead to achieving your goals.  You may view these as the steps along the way, or the main accomplishments needed to move you forward.  If your goal is to increase your coaching business your major outcomes will be finding new clients and keeping your existing clients.  These would be the two major outcomes that if you continue to do will certainly help you achieve your over arching goal.

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    Step #3 – Determine the activities needed

    In this step you need to take your outcomes from step #2 and break them down into all of the activities that are needed to get you to those outcomes.  There are likely several activities needed for each outcome. These can be broken down into small bite sized action chunks.  Continuing with the goal of expanding your coaching business, you would list all the activities for each of the two major outcomes.  For example for finding new clients you would have things such as building your prospect list, networking, phoning potential prospects, increasing your web presence, offering seminars or podcasts etc…  Think through all the things you do to move you towards each major outcome.

    Step #4 – Limit the list to the critical activities

    Once you have your list of activities you need to reduce the list to only those activities that are absolutely critical for achieving your goals.  These are the things that must be done.  To find out if one of the activities you have recorded is critical or not, ask yourself what would happen if you stopped doing it. If you quit doing one of the critical activities you will quit moving towards your goals.  If you quit something that is not critical you may miss it but it won’t prevent you from reaching your goals.  Often the critical activities are not the easy activities.  They require stepping out of your comfort zone.  For each goal you should aim to have between 4 and 8 critical activities.

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    Step #5 – Take action on the critical.

    After you have identified the critical activities you need to take action on those activities.  Reduce the time and focus you give to the non-critical activities. By now you have likely realized that some things you spend time on are not critical.  Non critical activities for me include cleaning my office, surfing the web endlessly, communicating with friends on Facebook etc..  Certainly there are times where these activities are appropriate and even needed, however that is not when I am working towards my goals.  When you have set aside time to focus on your business or other goals only do critical activities.   To do this you may need to block out distractions.  This might mean closing your email boxes, shutting of your twitter tweets, and perhaps even turning off the ringer on your phone.  Get rid of the non-critical things that might distract you from the critical.

    Step #6 – Do this for each goal

    Likely you will have more than one goal in your life.  You may have business goals, work goals, family goals, fitness goals etc.  For each goal area you can work through this process. If your goal is to lose you may identify the major outcomes of eating better and exercising more.  From there your critical activities might be: 1. exercise daily  2. cook better meals 3. measure our your servings 4. record everything you eat.   Every area of your life has critical activities and time wasters.

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    By taking the time to work through these steps you can focus on the critical and avoid the time wasters.  You will make more progress towards your goals more quickly.

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    Last Updated on September 11, 2019

    Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

    Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

    How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

    Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

    To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

    Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

    Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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    • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
    • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
    • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
    • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

    Benefits of Using a To-Do List

    However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

    • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
    • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
    • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
    • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
    • You feel more organized.
    • It helps you with planning.

    4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

    Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

    1. Categorize

    Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

    It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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    2. Add Estimations

    You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

    Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

    Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

    3. Prioritize

    To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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    • Important and urgent
    • Not urgent but important
    • Not important but urgent
    • Not important or urgent

    You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

    Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

    4.  Review

    To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

    For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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    Bottom Line

    So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

    To your success!

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    Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

    Reference

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