To be able to manage our time more effectively, we need to know where we are going and what we want to achieve. In other words, we have to have goals. Goal setting is the fuel that will ignite our engines, and make us fly. If we don’t know where we’re going we have little chance of getting there.
One of the most significant time traps, is a lack of focus. A person sits down at his desk at 8:00 am, thinking about a very important proposal that he needs to work on. But soon his eye picks up a flash of colour from a magazine on his desk and he picks it up. Fifteen minutes later, he puts it down, and once again thinks about the report, only to be interrupted by a phone call. At lunch time he realises that he still hasn’t started the proposal. The problem here is clearly – no focus. Setting goals creates the focus that will avoid wasting time.
Stay focused. One of the biggest time wasters is losing sight of the ball. While you are working solidly on your goal item, some little thing catches your attention, and the next thing you are fiddling with something that has no right to demand your time. Instead of spreading 20% of your concentration across 5 items at the same time, rather give one thing 100% of your attention and see the difference.
The secret is to stay focused. Imagine that you are a racing driver, roaring around the track at 200 plus kilometres an hour. One fraction of a second of lost concentration can make the difference between life and death. Now of course your situation is not that dramatic, but by losing focus, you can make the difference between getting things done, and those people that are doomed to mediocrity for the rest of their lives.
Take time out…
Recently, while consulting with a company, I asked the senior manager, who was the hardest worker within his department. Without hesitation he told me that Marion Plitt was by far his number one star. When I asked him why, his answer was immediate. “She’s driven. She has focus and goals. She knows exactly what she wants, and where she’s going. And let me tell you something else. She’s going to get there soon.”
I decided to interview Marion, to find out if this was true. “Do you think that you use your time well?” I asked her.
“Yes, I think I do.” Was the reply.
“I have to if I’m going to get the promotion that I’m aiming for. Brian, I’m a single parent and I’m the sole supporter of my two kids. At the salary I’m currently earning, I’m not going to be able to provide for them properly, so I’m going to become the manager of this department within the next eighteen months. That will give me the sort of income that I’ll need for my family. The only way that I can achieve my goal, is by making every minute count, and that’s what I try to do each day.”
WOW! Talk about goals!
Proactive not reactive.
Things will either happen to you, or you will involve yourself in the process of making things happen. The choice is yours. We can either sit back, and moan about how things turn out.. about how fate always deals us a bad set of cards, or we can start to take control.. to pull our own strings. This is the difference between being proactive and being reactive.
The reactive approach as the name implies, is to let things happen, that is to react to outside events and situations. The opposite approach is the proactive approach that determines how and what will happen… that is to create the situations and events, that are required.
To be proactive is to set goals and to plan to make things happen. Being proactive is seeing the potential for a “fire” to break out and to build a fire break, long before the “fire” breaks out, to prevent or to lessen the chances of disaster. So often one hears people moaning about things that have happened to them, and can clearly see that with a bit of proactive foresight and planning, that these events could have been avoided.
Take time out…
An executive within a large company recently consulted me for a stress related disorder. He felt, and quite rightly so as it turned out that he was going to be retrenched. In questioning him, I discovered that he had been in the same position for eight years. What training courses had he attended during this time? None! What had he done about staying current? Nothing! What plans had he made for development and promotion? None!
This person had got into a position and then allowed himself to stagnate there. Technology and systems were changing around him all the time, but he was still living in the cocoon that he’d created. With the end result that he was no longer an asset to his company, and he was made redundant.
Interesting though, he was not MADE redundant, he actually made himself redundant by not proactively staying current with his job and the marketplace. Could this have been avoided? I would like to think that it could have, with proper planning and controlling of his destiny.
There is a clear correlation between goal setting and time management. Where people have goals, they have more direction and therefore less frustrations. This of course presupposes that the goals are set intelligently. If a person sets goals in only one area of his life, rather than balancing goals in all four areas, it tends to create stress, which then prevents him from functioning well. So the way to use goal setting as a time management tool, needs to be a balanced and rational approach. It is the purpose of this chapter, to provide the reader with a framework for doing this.
The one factor that will determine what you get in life, more than any other, is your goal plan. We tend to get what we set. Nobody would stand by a patch of ground and say: “I wish roses would grow!” No, if our goal is to grow roses, we have to set up an action plan, to make this happen. We would clear away the weeds, fertilise the soil, get seeds, water them, and then stand back, a year later, and admire the roses. If we examine the definition of success, we can see just how important goals really are.
Let us get a firm understanding of what a goal is. People often tend to confuse goals with dreams. They are clearly NOT the same. There are three key elements in a goal.
Number one, it must be specific. “I want to be a millionaire,” is a dream. I want to have a net asset value of 250 thousand Rand by the 1st of January 2000, is a goal.
Secondly, as we see with this example, a goal is time specific. We don’t talk in terms of “One Day,” that is dreaming. We talk about the achievement of a set goal by a very specific date.
Thirdly, goals are ALWAYS in writing. When we write down a goal, it has the psychological effect of giving it enormous power. It moves it out of the realms of dreaming, into the hard cold reality of POSSIBILITY. Research indicates that well over 90% of successful people, have goals, and have them written down. Now it’s also important to read those goals again, and again. Each time you re-read the goal, it’s like taking a booster shot. It re-aligns your mind to the goal, and to your plan for reaching that goal.
From goals to action.
Now, the goal, needs to be translated into an action plan. In other words, we decided that we wanted to have a net asset value of 250 thousand Rand by the 1st of January 2000. We now have to determine how we are going to generate that money. What steps are necessary, today, to make sure that we will achieve what we want tomorrow. In setting up an action plan, we should try to make it as detailed as possible. Try to include all the “How’s” “When’s” and “What’s.” The more specific the plan, the easier to work with.
So we need to accept the fact that we HAVE to have goals. In setting goals it becomes important to ask ourselves 3 separate questions: Number 1, What do you want out of life? 2. Where do you hope to be in 10 years time? In other words, where are you going? And number 3. What are you prepared to pay? Perhaps this last question is the most important of all, because sometimes the price can be too high. Maybe a nervous breakdown! Maybe alienation from family, maybe other forms of ill health. More stress as opposed to less stress. It’s easy to say you want more, but are you prepared to pay for what you want, and is the price worth it in the long run.