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.