Do you know where your goals went?

May 25, 2010

It’s mid May – nearly half way through the year. How are you doing on getting your goals accomplished?

Are you ahead of schedule? Are you behind? Have you forgotten what they are? Or did you give up already? And how are you measuring or tracking your progress?

It’s funny how we think things need to move in a linear fashion – as if the fulfillment of our goals was always going to look like an upward sloping line on a graph – a nice angle always heading upward. But how often does that happen in real life? And is it even a valid line for us to use?

Isn’t it more like up and then down and then up and then up and then down and then flat – and then repeat all over? Or am I the only one who measures progress one step forward and two steps back? It’s hard to break the habit of thinking ‘it’s half way through the year, I should be half way to accomplishing the goal.’

But should you be that far really? What if instead you looked at your progress like compounding? Or use the example of doubling a penny each day for 30 days.

At the end of 15 days (halfway through the month) you have $163.84.

At day 20 you have $2,621.44, at day 25 you have $167,772.16, at day 29 you have $2,684,354.56.

And at day 30 you have $5,368,709.12.

So, half way through the month your total was $163.84 – or .0031% of your final total. Is that any reason to give up on achieving the goal? It is certainly hard to imagine that if you continue on taking the actions (doubling the penny) that you could possibly end up with $5.3 Million in just 15 more days.

Graphing this shows a little progress all along the way and then, all of a sudden, the line curves up very sharply (breakthrough).

Here’s the point. Don’t give up! Keep moving forward. Even the two steps back part of the the result gives you valuable information to apply going forward.

Which would you rather have? $163.84? Or $5,368,709.12?

(For those of you in the Northern Virginia area – Join me on June 18 for a mid-year goals workshop. Information available at my website, on the events page.)


Multitasking – fact or fiction?

May 12, 2010

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of someone’s multitasking? You know what I mean. You are on the phone with someone, and you hear click clack click clack (because they have you on speaker phone). Obviously, they are trying to have a conversation with you and type something on their computer at the same time. So, they miss what you are saying, and they probably type in a line of your conversation to their report or email.

Or, you are sitting in their office, across the desk from them, and their eyes keep going to their computer screen. And you just know you have lost their attention.

Drives me nuts! Anyone who thinks they are saving time and being efficient needs to really examine that belief. Who’s time are you saving? Your own? Really? Have you looked at the time you spend fixing your errors? What about the fact that it can really take you three to five times longer to get something done when you are multitasking? Where did the time savings go?

One of the best productivity tips I ever heard was “if you cannot give it your full focus, don’t do it.” I know that when I am working with a client, I demand their full attention for the time we are working together. So, all smart phones get turned off, all distractions get set aside, and I will often schedule the meeting to be outside of their office – as another way to minimize the distractions and the temptation to multitask.

For the same reason, I have had to discipline myself to shut my laptop when I am on a phone call. Too many distractions possible with it open, and before I know it I have lost the thread of the conversation!

Here’s an experiment. Just try doing one thing at a time. Try it for an hour. Do one thing. Finish it. Then do the next thing. I bet you will be shocked at how much you get done. I bet you will also be shocked at how clear your mind is when you are only focusing on one thing at a time.

Do you take shortcuts?

May 5, 2010

I recently had a column published in the Washington Business Journal. The topic was Seven simple steps help you to plan projects. (Yes, I am very excited about being a guest columnist this year.)

Since planning is an essential element of most people’s work – and it is one element that can dramatically impact both results and the pervasive sense of overwhelm, it is a major piece of the foundation work I do with my clients.

A recent conversation with a couple of friends was quite telling. They are in the midst of planning a new focus and direction for their business, while at the same time being responsible for the business they have in process.

Have you ever done that? Have one project moving forward, and had to plan for a new project at the same time? Almost everyone has had that happen. Rarely do we have the luxury of working totally focused on just one thing, with everything else waiting patiently for that one project to get complete. (Oh, but don’t we wish that would happen?)

What was quite interesting was discovering that they had done some of the steps in the planning process, but not all of them. And, as a result they were driving each other crazy! She kept investigating additional potential avenues they could pursue to get where they wanted to go, while he kept worrying about what could go wrong both with what they were considering and with everything that was already in process.

The step they had skipped was the ‘provide for control’ aspect of the plan. This part involves brainstorming all the potential pitfalls and breakdowns in the project, as well as determining the milestones and timelines.

In most cases the potential pitfalls and breakdowns are easily identified and can just as easily be averted with a little thought. Think of it as disaster planning for your goals.

As my friends discovered, skipping this step just led to more anxiety. What was absolutely great about it was that one of them was automatically worrying about all the potential problems, while the other was actively investigating all the possible ways they could achieve their goals. All they had to do was sit down and talk – recognizing that each perspective was essential to the planning. Once they saw that they were able to have a conversation – letting his concern illuminate all the potential problems, and her focus add to the planning. They were just at different stages in the thinking process.And the different stages required different thinking.

It sure beats making each other wrong and driving each other nuts!

Where are you taking shortcuts? Where are you finding yourselves at odds with a partner or colleague? Is it possible you are having the same conversation, just from different perspectives?

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