The importance of setting realistic goals...
I recently embarked on an ambitious personal project. However only a couple of weeks into the 2 month project, I realized that the plan I'd laid out just wasn't realistic. So where did I go wrong and how will I be more realistic about setting goals next time?
To start off with, I'd broken the project down into manageable pieces - tasks if you like. Each of the tasks was less than half of one day in duration. I then set out the tasks in logical order and estimated the total time it would take based on the time I had available to me. And based on these estimates, it was a 2 month project.
As I said before, after 2 weeks, I'd fallen well behind the schedule. I decided to take the time to work out what had gone wrong with my planning. When I went back through my completed tasks I confirmed that I was completing them in approximately the time I'd estimated. So why was I falling behind?
The answer turned out to be simple enough. I'd overestimated the amount of time I had available to work on my project each week. I'd been way too optimistic. This is natural enough. Some might say it's human nature. But the reality is that we all have family and friends that need our attention. And the best laid plans are easily derailed by unexpected events. There wasn't one single thing that ate into my available time but rather a whole raft of smaller things which collectively were enough to derail my project.
The danger now is that I could become discouraged and give up. This is what could happen if you set unrealistic goals for yourself. So what steps have I taken in my efforts in re-planning? Well there are 2 main things.
First of all, I have been a lot more realistic about how much time I have available. By being conservative, I'm hoping that I can remain on schedule and therefore stay motivated through to completion. Regardless of the strength of my time management skills, I just can't manufacture the extra hours I need out of thin air. And there is only so much sleep deprivation one can manage.
The other thing I've done is to schedule "catch up days". In fact one day each week has become a catch up day. The idea of this day is to tidy up any loose ends - any tasks which aren't quite complete or which didn't have a level of quality which I was happy with. This will help me to deal with anything unexpected which crops up during the week and should ensure a higher overall quality at the end.
Hopefully these steps will do the trick. With my new plan, built around some more realistic goal setting, I should be able to stay on track this time.
The importance of setting realistic goals...
Is your personal productivity all that it could be? How much do you really get done during the average day or week. And how much time do you spend doing it? In this article I'm going to discuss how to use a task based approach to increase your productivity.
Task Based Or Time Based?
I used to spend a lot of time planning and worrying about how long I would spend doing something. During high school and university I would use time based planning to get things done. What does this mean? When planning out my week I would say - I'll spend 2 hours Monday night on Company Law and I'll spent 3 hours Tuesday night on Business Finance. In short, my time management strategy was to simply break my time up into blocks and throw these blocks indescriminately at the sunbjects I was studying.
So wht is the problem with this? Many of you will have spotted it already. For those that haven't, the problem lies in the lack of goals or specificity of objectives. It was easy for me to spend 2 hours "studying" Company Law but what did I actually achieve? Don't get me wrong - I knew what work was due and normally got it done on time. But it wasn't the most efficint way of doing things.
A Task Based Approach To Time Management:
I discovered a better way. Instead of saying I'll spend 2 hours on Company Law I would say I'll complete my Week 9 Company Law tutorial questions and complete the first 3 questions of the mid-semester assignment. The time allocated was the same but the goals had become specific. I would know at the end of the session whther I'd completed what I'd set out to do.
To use a task based approach, you'll need to break your work down into discrete tasks. Time is still important - in fact estimating times becomes critical to planning and scheduling. But time is secondary as a means of measuring progress. The primary method of determining progress is to ascertain whether the allotted tasks for that day have been completed.
Each task should be large enough to represent a significant step toward meeting your overall objective, but small enough to fit into one day, or preferably less. You'll need to be able to look back the end of a session or a day and tick off each of the tasks you've completed.
I switched over to this approach to time management towards the end of university and never looked back. And it's served me well in the years since then as well. In fact I would put down my increased productivity as a major step forward in my own personal development.
Are you looking for help with motivation to do exercise?
Being physically fit is great. You feel better, both physically and mentally, your self esteem is sky high and life is much more enjoyable. But if you're like most people , you need a little push to get you started on the path towards physical fitness. In this article I'll share some strategies to help you not only get motivated but also to maintain your motivation.
Exercise With A Partner:
This is a great motivation strategy for two reasons. Firstly, by training with a partner, you'll feel an obligation to attend each training session. On the days when you can't be bothered going out, knowing that your training partner is waiting for you and that you'll be letting them down if you don't show up can be a powerful motivating force. Secondly, while you're actually training, the session is more beneficial when you have someone else to push you. You're less likely to take a short cut or stop and walk if there is someone else there to keep you honest. Most days I run with a friend and there have been numerous occasions when I've been feeling lack-luster, yet he's twisted my arm just enough to get me out on the track. Also he's a little fitter and faster than I am so it's always a tough session.
Enter A Race:
If you need motivation to exercise and lose weight, entering a race or some other sort of organized sporting event can be a great way to get started. I've done this a number of times with fun runs, triathlons and cycling events and in my experience, setting a goal like that has been greatly beneficial. It has given me a something objective which I can measure myself against and it gives ma a fixed date to work with. And if you can convince friends and family to participate as well, so much the better - there's nothing like a little friendly rivalry to spur you on. And once you complete the event you'll feel great - another goal accomplished and a couple of steps closer to personal discovery.
If you can't find anyone to train with, the next best thing may be a motivational podcast. There are heaps to choose from - just have a quick look at Google. Some provide general motivation and advice for getting and keeping physically fit while others provide specific exercise programs for you to follow. Just imagine having Anthony Robbins spurring you on to greater personal achievement while you get your exercise.
Join A Gym:
Another great way to motivate yourself to exercise regularly is to join a gymnasium. There's nothing like having spent a heap of money on a gym membership to keep you going. Because there are minimum commitments to a membership period which apply at most gyms, you'll feel obligated to get fit just because of the financial commitment you've made.
And speaking of financial commitments, what about snapping up the latest hi-tech gadget to help you achieve your physical fitness goals? One useful device is a heart rate monitor. This handy gadget monitors your heart rate in real time to ensure you're exercising at the correct intensity. And for the scientifically minded, the more advanced heart rate monitors will let you download enough stats to baffle even the most hard-core statistician. You can graph heart rate against distance against time against ... well I think you get the idea. You can even track your progress against long term goals in a training diary.
So as you can see, there are many options available to you. If you're social, train with a group. If you're the solitary type go with the motivational podcasts. If you're willing to invest some money, look at the gym membership or the heart rate monitor. Take massive action! Just do whatever works for you find that motivation to exercise.
3 Ways To Find More Time In Your Day.
We'd all like to get more done each day but there never seems to be enough time. Let's face it - we could all use an extra hour or two each day. Think how much more productive you could be with that extra time available to you. You could start that exercise program you've been promising yourself, use the extra time to chill out and meditate, or you could spend it on some other task which will advance your personal development. In this post I'm going to give you 3 simple tips to help you find that extra time you need in your day.
Get Out Of Bed Earlier:
This may sound obvious, but you'll be surprised at the power that becoming an early riser can add to your life. I find that waking up early has multiple benefits. It gives me a continuous chunk of time first thing in the morning before everyone else wakes up. My mind is clear and my brain is functioning well at that time of the morning. And it gives me the time to plan out the rest of my day and even knock off a couple of tasks early. Set yourself the goal of getting up one hour earlier every day starting tomorrow.
Switch Off The Television:
I have found that one of the most effective ways of wasting time is by watching television. I'm not saying you need to go cold turkey. But think about how much TV you watch during an average week. We all have our favorite television programs and there's nothing wrong with sitting down to watch those. A little rest and relaxation can do wonders but there are limits. Over the next week, try to do the following. Pick out the TV programs you really want to watch. Make a list if that helps. Now apply a little self discipline and only turn on the television when one of those programs starts. Then make sure you turn it off again when the program finishes. Don't sit there channel surfing and wondering if there's anything else on. Think of it this way - if you didn't know it was on, how could you miss it?
Do You Waste Time Online?
This is a bad habit I'm especially guilty of at times. How often have you sat down with your computer with the intention of doing some "work" only to find an endless array or distractions to occupy your mind and your time? Do you check your mail and catch up on all of your favorite blogs and forums before you get down to real work? And again while you're "working", do you do the same thing? And again when you're finished? If this sounds familiar, you might need to be a little more disciplined and organize your time more effectively. Try changing the order around. Complete the important tasks first. Then with any time you have left at the end, catch up on the more menial tasks.
That's it - nothing earth shattering, yet these ideas can definitely help you achieve your personal growth and development goals more quickly. Get up earlier, watch less television and use your time online more efficiently. Sounds simple doesn't. But I challenge you to put these principles to use over the next month - or even the next week. You wont know yourself once you've employed these simple yet effective time management strategies.
Are you having trouble getting started? Not making any progress towards your goals? Getting bogged down is a common experience. Sometimes we can spend so much time analyzing and planning what we're going to do that we never actually get around to the "doing" part. How can we get past this? What can we do to get moving again? The solution - take massive action!
Sounds kind of cool doesn't it. Just as an aside, take care if you ever use Google to search for some of the variations of massive action. Make sure safe search is enabled, or you may be surprised at what you find. I first heard the term "massive action" used at a forum I visit on a regular basis. To me it captured the essence of personal growth and development. No matter what your goals are, you just need to start doing something. Anything. There's and old Chinese proverb which goes something along the lines of: "Even the longest journey begins with a single step." While a major undertaking can be daunting, sometimes just pushing yourself to start can be a major step.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained - that's what they say. I think this is true of most things worthwhile especially in the area of personal growth and development. And the very concept of massive action is both inspiring and motivating. I've found that when I bring this sort of positive attitude to my projects, I normally get off to a flying start. The progress I make early on and the positive reinforcement I receive in turn motivates me to further action. It becomes self perpetuating.
A colleague of mine is a great ideas man. He's very creative - some of the stuff he comes up with is way out there. But he doesn't just sit there contemplating these ideas. He takes action. He goes out and takes the steps necessary to make his dreams a reality. To be honest, not everything he's tried has worked. In fact he's had some spectacular failures. But overall, he' done very well for himself and had some great life experiences along the way.
And his story leads nicely into my next point - what's the worst that can happen? You might fail, or you might even succeed. But even if things don't go as planned, provided you maintain a positive attitude, you'll learn a lot. Sometimes failure can be painful, but it's normally character building. To get back on track, you'll need to take stock of the situation. What worked? What didn't? Take these lessons on board and use them to help make your next project a success.
Don't get me wrong. Planning and goal setting are very important components of personal development, but they are just ideas until you take the steps to make them reality. Take massive action. You'll never know to you have a go.
Taking on a physical challenge can be a great way to discover your strengths and weaknesses and to further you pursuit of personal growth and discovery. While our day-to-day lives are full of challenges, most of which are unavoidable and not of our choosing, sometimes we need to go out of our way to find a way to push ourselves to the limit both physically and mentally. Today I'd like to discuss an endurance race I participated in recently. It was a great experience for me personally and something I highly recommend to others.
The race I competed in was a Rogain. For those unfamiliar with this type of event, it's an endurance sport involving long distance cross country navigation. Using only a compass, a map and a clue sheet, competitors need to work in teams to navigate to as many "checkpoints" as possible within 24 hours. The course we covered was in mountainous, heavily wooded terrain and the weather conditions were challenging as well - a hot sunny day followed by thick fog then torrential rain during the night-time hours.
So what did I get out of such a punishing physical ordeal? I discovered an inner strength which I didn't realize was there. To be completely honest, I was very nervous immediately before the race. Two of my fellow team members were marathon runners and a third had spent time in the military, running around in the wilderness for a living. I was worried I'd be too slow - that I'd hold everybody else back - or that my fairly basic navigation skills would get us lost. Add to this all of the energy powders, gels and sports drinks the other guys were packing, which made my muesli bars, sandwiches, fruit and water seem completely inadequate.
But as the afternoon turned to evening and then to night and as the fog and then rain rolled in, I found myself not only keeping up but even encouraging other team members at various times. That's not to say I wasn't hurting - I was in pain as well. My "weatherproof" gear turned out to not to be. I was soaked to the skin only one hour into the six hour downpour. My muscles were aching and my feet were blistered and bruised from the rough terrain. But my mind was clear. I hadn't got us lost and I'd even managed to lead the team directly onto a number of checkpoints. Even with the physical fatigue and the lack of sleep, I was not only surviving - I was still competing. A big difference, certainly in my mind, if not in reality. I never got to the point where it was merely survival. I maintained a positive attitude and was always looking for ways to reach more checkpoints and score more points.
And the big surprise was that I actually enjoyed it. Despite the physical discomfort and the poor weather conditions, I was having fun. More than that, it was satisfying a deep need to test my physical and mental boundaries. It was a feeling that lasted beyond the weekend of the race. In the days and weeks which followed, I found I had a new level of self confidence and self esteem. I was walking taller (if you'll pardon the cliche). The relationship with my teammates had strengthened as well. Spending so much time together in such arduous conditions had brought us closer together. We'd been able to support each other through our down periods - and we all has those. We'd worked as a team and shared a great life experience.
Now I'm hooked. I sought out a new experience and liked it so much that I'm now a regular competitor. I've convinced other friends to try it as well. The message here is to try something new - step outside your comfort zone. You never know what you'll find out there. It doesn't have to be some crazy adventure race. There are plenty of other ways to challenge yourself. The icing on the cake in this story of personal discovery is that we won our category of the event.
What are the benefits of better time management skills?
Time management is a skill I've always coveted. One of the key planks of my own personal development is productivity. How can I motivate myself to get more done with the time available to me? I've written about personal development planning and the importance of setting goals in recent posts, but without efficient and effective use of time, achieving your goals becomes that much more difficult.
There are many paths which may lead to better use of your time. Today I'm going to focus on a couple of bad habits which you can address to free up some time and start getting things done.
Stop Wasting Time.
This sounds simple but it can be a very effective strategy to harness more of your energy and direct it towards more productive pursuits. Or if you prefer a more positive spin, let me re-phrase it for you. Are you spending the bulk your time on activities which assist you in achieving your personal goals?
Consider your typical day. Are there periods during the day when you're not as productive as you could be? We all need "down time", but even then there are ways to use this time more efficiently. For example, for the last few years my lunch break at work has become an hour spent on my personal health and wellbeing. I use my lunch break to exercise and stay fit. This might be a session in the pool or the gym. Or even if I'm not geographically close to such facilities, I can still get out for a run. Running is great because you don't need much equipment and most buildings I've worked in over recent years have had showers available to staff.
Another way of using my time efficiently is cycling to work. Whenever practical, I'll jump on my bike for the commute to the office. In most traffic conditions, it doesn't take much longer than driving or taking public transport and I have the added bonus of getting to work and feeling great both mentally and physically.
This next bad habit is an extension of time wasting...
I'm ashamed to say that procrastination is something I've indulged in a little to often. Why do today what you can put of until tomorrow? At times, that's been my motto. But as the demands on my time have increased and my life has become busier, I've found myself becoming more productive. I'm more proactive in the way I approach problems. I'm less likely to put things off until another day. Yet I still lapse into my old ways from time to time.
Have you conquered procrastination yet? I'm going to lay down a challenge for any and all comers. Stop procrastinating now. Not tomorrow. Not later today, but now. What do you have on your to do list which you've been putting off. I want you to go out and complete one of your tasks today. It could be something at work or something around the home. It might be starting that new exercise program you've been talking about or telling a loved one how much they mean to you. Whatever it is, do it today.
And I'm taking up this challenge as well. I had an experience the other day which caused me to take a closer look at myself and my habits. One of my children started school not long ago. The weekend just gone, my son came to me on Sunday night and told me about a class project which was due the following day. He then went on to tell me that he hadn't started it yet. So we worked on it together and completed it in time for him to take it to school the next day. I didn't make a big deal of it at the time - I find a positive attitude and plenty of encouragement works best with my children.
But later I found myself contemplating the situation and how it reflected on myself as a role model and my time management skills or lack thereof. And being brutally honest with myself, I had to admit that the habit of leaving things until the last minute was not only something I indulged in as a child, but a habit which I still slipped into occasionally. As other parents are no doubt aware, children will frequently mimic behavior they see at home (unfortunately the bad, not just the good). So as parents, we need to make sure we set a good example.
So from now on, no more procrastination. For the good of my personal growth and development and that of my family I will stop putting things of. In an effort to get more done I'll be starting the hard jobs sooner. Just by making this commitment, I feel more motivated.
Ironically I've run out of time, so I'll have to wrap up here. I have more to say on this topic, but it will have to wait for another day. This no doubt illustrates the importance of better time management skills.