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Manage Stress with Daily Goals

Manage Stress with Daily Goals
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You’ve got your big project to work on. The deadline for your goals is looming over your shoulder. You are starting to feel it’s hot breath of guilt whenever you aren’t working. Socializing with your friends, taking a break, even just going to sleep now seems like it is just wasting time. When you are working you feel tired and drained and when you aren’t working you can’t really rest because of the nagging feeling that you simply aren’t doing enough.

Burnout is a big problem when you are working towards goals. Your goals become so motivating, that doing anything not directly related to their achievement seems wasteful. Half of you wants to recover your energy to go back with full force and the other believes you are just wasting time.

In their groundbreaking book on Energy Management, Tony Schwarz and Jim Loehr, they make the case that managing energy cycles, not just time is the key to peak productivity. From their work with companies, they begin applying the secrets of world class athletes. The secrets of resting to recover energy between periods of hard work. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and it will cause your productivity to go down in flames.

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After reading this book and various other works on the subject of energy management, these ideas sound great. Unfortunately, there really isn’t an effective system for putting them into place. How do you draw the line between resting the right amount for full performance and just being lazy? How can you create a system for managing your
stress?

The best system I found is also one of the most simple. Get yourself a binder or notepad that you can refer to throughout the day. Before you go to bed each night, write down all the things you want to accomplish the next day. These are your daily goals. As you work the next day check off the items on your daily goal list.

How It’s Different Than Traditional “To-Do” Lists

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Some of you might start saying to yourself, “It’s my to-do list that is causing me to burnout in the first place! When I look at all the things I have to do I start feeling guilty when I’m not working!” Daily goals are very different than a to-do list.

Your daily goals list only contains the things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Those familiar with the Next Actions lists in the GTD system will notice that those lists contain everything you need to do. Daily goals are separate from to-do lists because it only contains activities for tomorrow.

Secondly you don’t add things to today’s goals. I almost never make additions to today’s list during the day unless something unexpected comes up that needs to be handled immediately. If I need to do work, it get’s put on my to-do list for the next day. This way you know from when you wake up how much is on your plate for each day.

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How Daily Goals List Prevents Burnout

Once you complete all the actions on your goals list, the rest of the time is yours. Relax, socialize and do whatever you want, by completing your daily goals you have earned it. You don’t have your to-do list looming over your shoulder because your new tasks won’t be updated until the next day.

What this allows you to do is it helps you find out what amount of workload is a light, moderate or strenuous day for you. So if your deadline is coming up fast and you have a lot of energy, a few weeks of this practice will allow you to schedule in enough work so that you will work hard throughout the day to accomplish all your goals. If you have
a bit more flexibility, you can make your goals lighter so that you can fit in more recovery time.

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Your daily goal list is like setting the temperature on your stress thermostat. Too little stress and you are getting nowhere and aren’t improving. Too much stress for too long and you hit burnout. Daily goal lists let you take control so you can temporarily ramp up your productivity or slow it down to properly manage your energy.

Eventually by using this technique and systematically creating hard days followed by lighter ones, you can increase your productivity. Professional bodybuilders take time to stress their muscles followed by periods where the muscle tissue can be rebuilt. You can apply the same process to your work by setting hard days followed by lighter days. Set your daily goals so you can get more done and feel less stress.

Scott Young is a University student who writes about personal development, productivity and goal setting. Scott is currently writing his first book, Personal Evolution, which will be available in the fall. You can learn more about Scott or read hundreds of other articles at his website.

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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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