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The New Lifehacking #3 – Avoiding Failure With Improvement Goals

The New Lifehacking #3 – Avoiding Failure With Improvement Goals

In the prior article in this series, I shared that it’s important to figure out the nature of your current time management system before running to the Internet, books, or programs to find random tips, tricks and shortcuts. I emphasized that when you conduct a random chase, you could end up becoming a tip-a-holic: someone who frantically searches for the latest tip with no real purpose in mind.

For most people, doing an assessment is a good start, but it’s hardly enough. Even the very best assessment that reveals your faults might take you in the wrong direction because there’s an assumption made by the creator that you can’t escape: her/her concept of “ideal” performance. Their particular ideal may not be the same as yours, however.

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After the assessment is complete and you have received the results, the next step is important. In the training I conduct with clients, I describe a range of skills from low to high, using a scale of martial arts belts ranging from White (beginner) to Black (expert.) I issue a warning at the same time: “The point is not to become obsessed about gaining the highest belt possible in the shortest amount of time.” In fact, that’s a good way for you to fail. Instead, you need to set your own goals using the tool’s results. Ideally, your goals should cover each of the behaviors from the assessment, and incorporate a realistic time-frame in which to accomplish them.

Why is this important?

Consider what happens in the life of young tennis players: As they proceed up the ranks, they set goals that are appropriate for their age group. Some just want to enter the top 10 in their city, while others want to dominate their national age group. Neither goal is betterthey are just different.

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As professionals, we need to take the same approach to improving our time management systems. We are all different from each other, and don’t need to have the same level of productivity in order to be effective in our lives. I might be quite happy with a Yellow Belt; a level of accomplishment that might produce havoc in your life. I might not need an upgrade for another ten years, while you might need to put one in place every six months, just to keep up with a fast-changing life.

This may all sound like common sense, but it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom. There are many productivity systems being sold today that promise to “Triple Your Productivity Overnight.” It’s like selling a 10-year old tennis prodigy on the idea of “Winning Wimbledon in 2 Years!” We laugh at outrageous productivity promises but they come in different guises and offer no form of actual measurement: “Save 30 days per year.” “Stop wasting 2 hours per day.” “Instantly double your income by 33.3% by managing your time better.” “Implement this one time saving tip and…”

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Fact from Fantasy

Turning away from outlandish claims, how do you know whether your improvement plans are sound? The following checklist can be used to separate fact from fantasy.

  • Have you done a diagnosis of your current skills?
  • What are the symptoms (if any) that your current level of skills are too low for your life’s demands?
  • Do you know the level of demands to be placed on your time in the future? (personal, business, community, etc.)
  • Are the goals in your plan realistic, and gentle enough to almost guarantee success?
  • What role does changing technology play in bringing new demands in your life?

As you can imagine, a part-time graduate student who is single and has a 5-year-old, has completely different needs than a 24-year-old who’s just entering the workforce. Unfortunately, most books and programs fail to distinguish between them. In their one-size-fits-all thinking they assign them all the same goals… and no idea how quickly they should be accomplished.

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This is a huge disservice. Many, many people fail because they try to follow someone else’s goals at the pace they recommend. They come to learn the truth that researchers have learned: implementing behavior change is tough work and advertising that “It’s Easy!” may provide a catchy headline that sells, but in the end it leads to customers feeling guilty, or that something must be wrong with them.

Let’s back the heck up. We are all different to begin with, so we need to set unique goals that suit our needs, and we need to attempt to achieve them at a speed that almost guaranteed success. It’s time for us to stop failing at time management, and take our destinies into our own hands.

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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