Mastering the "P" in Productive
PREPARATION RELATES TO HOW WELL you've planned and laid the foundation for your daily activities. Most people don't have well-articulated goals. Perhaps you don't know how to set them. Perhaps writing goals down seems like too much effort, or you simply haven't taken the time to write them. Perhaps your goals seem out of reach. It's worth the work to create goals, because the goals you set will provide direction
for your life and focus
An established direction, outlined with purposeful thought, ensures your life won't be governed by whim. In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
, Alice stops at the crossroads to ask the Cheshire Cat which road to take. He asks her where she wants to go. When she tells him she doesn't "much care where," he replies, "Then it doesn't much matter which way you walk." And so Alice wanders somewhat aimlessly. In contrast, productive people devote a great deal of thought and time to planning their life goals.
The toughest part of setting goals is translating the lofty, long-term goals into actionable tasks you can work on today
. The process itself looks like this:
VISION (personal mission statement)
LONG-TERM GOALS (dreams with a deadline)
SHORT-TERM GOALS and objectives (projects)
MONTHLY PLANS (action steps)
DAILY TASK LIST (specific activities)
When you start with your personal mission statement in front of you as a guide, create personal and professional long-term goals, break them down into short-term objectives, create monthly plans, and then daily activities, you have direction and focus. Bottom line, you achieve your long-term objectives by focusing on today. This section will help you define these things for yourself.PREPARATION quiz item #1:
1. I abide by a personal mission statement for my life. What Do You Value?
Much like a corporate mission statement, your personal mission statement defines who you are, what you're all about, and why you're on this earth. Why do you need such a statement?
*It helps you make difficult decisions when faced with the choices life presents.
*It helps you realize how very little time you truly have to accomplish the important things in your life.
*It helps you recognize when you're off course and steers you back in the right direction.
Life is precious, and time is short. The best engineer cannot create more time, and the best scientist cannot invent more time. You cannot accumulate time or borrow tomorrow's time. We all have the same amount of time--24 hours a day, 168 hours every week, 86,400 seconds every day. Since it feels like we have plenty of time left, we can take for granted our 86,400 seconds every day.Discovering your true priorities
The main objective of a personal mission statement is to define what's important to you. Many people say "this is important" and "that is important," but how do you narrow it down to what's truly important in your life? I like to use the following visualization:
SCENARIO A: Picture a thick banded-steel cable about two feet in circumference and one hundred feet long, stretched out across the floor. You are standing at one end, and I'm on the other. I call out to you, "I'll give you $100 if you can step onto the cable and walk across it to me without falling off." Would you try it? Sure! Most people would. Why? Basically, it involves a fairly low risk with a relatively high payoff for the effort required. It could be fun and a little challenging.
SCENARIO B: Now we're going to suspend the cable just a bit. Have you ever been to the Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City, Colorado? It's the highest suspension bridge in the world, with a cable like ours spanning a chasm with a rushing river below. A tram with a clear glass bottom hangs from the cable and carries passengers across the chasm. Except you don't get to ride the tram. You are standing on one side of the chasm, and I'm on the other side. The cable is suspended between us. I yell out, "Hey! If you can walk across the cable without falling off into the river below, I'll give you $100!" There is no way anyone in his or her right mind would attempt that. The risk is too high for the reward involved. But let's up the ante. Would you cross it for $250,000? No? How about $1 million? How much would I have to offer you? What if I let you crawl across on your belly? For some of you, the reward would never be high enough to risk your life.
SCENARIO C: Let's add a little wind (a slight 40 mph breeze) and a tad of rain to make the cable slick. I'm on one side of the chasm, and you're on the other. In my arms, I hold your child hostage. I yell, "If you don't cross the chasm in two minutes, I'm throwing your child in the river." Would you come now? Of course you would! Despite the incredibly high risk to your own life, the child is so priceless to you that you'd risk your own life to save that child.
Perhaps if you don't have children, it could be your parents, your significant other, or your friend. Clearly, that person is a core value in your life. What other things like that exist in your life? Probably not very many. What principles, values, or character traits are most important to you, such that if I were to rip them out of your life and throw them into the chasm, you would be willing to cross the bridge to save them? What things are so integral to who you are that you cannot imagine existing without them?Determining your core values
1.Holding that visualization in your mind, read through the following list of values below. They may be important to you; they may not be. Circle any of the values you'd cross the bridge for. Add any others important to you but not listed at the bottom.
Peace Integrity Power
Wealth Joy Influence
Happiness Love Justice
Success Recognition Spirituality
Friendship Family Career
Fame Truth Status
Authenticity Wisdom Acceptance
Health ____________ ____________
2.Next, go back through the items you've circled and narrow the list down to only six. Which items are more important to you than the others? Place a star next to your top six values.
3.Now picture this: you've got those six items lined up with you on the side of the chasm. I have the ability to make you choose between them. You've got to throw three away. Which ones would go? If all you had left in your life were three values, what would they be? Cross out three of the six so that your top three values remain.
4.Last, rank your top three values. Which one would go first? Label it #3. Which one would go second? Label it #2. Label the remaining item #1.
You have just listed the top three most important values in your life. There are, of course, no "correct" answers, just the correct answers for you
. Everyone's values are different. My values are spirituality, family, and health, in that order. Yours are probably different, but even if they are exactly the same, in the same order, we probably place different meaning on each of the words.Defining your core values
Rewrite your top three values in order on the blanks below. Then for each value, write a definition, a statement of what it means to you to be successful in that area. At the end of your life, looking back, how will you know if you've been successful in that area? If "Family" is one of your values, how will you know if you've been successful as a family man or woman? If you put "Happiness," what does that look like to you?
"Success to me means . . ."
"Success to me means . . ."
"Success to me means . . ."
Sit in front of a computer or with pen and paper and merge the three paragraphs together into one statement. It could be several sentences or several paragraphs. You've just created a personal mission statement for your life.
Your mission statement will reflect who you
are and what's important to you. Think of your personal mission statement as your constitution. It will become your benchmark. Your standard of excellence. It will get your behavior in line with your values. You measure yourself against it and continuously ask yourself if an activity is moving toward your mission in life. For example, if taking care of my health is important to me, and I eat eight slices of pizza and watch five straight hours of television, my actions are not supporting my mission.
When you're making changes in your life and setting goals, refer to your statement of purpose. I promise this activity will have an impact on your productivity. It's been said that "true character is the ability to carry out a goal long after the mood in which it was created has passed." That's when the real challenge begins.PREPARATION quiz item #2:
2. I track my long-term goals and aspirations. The Dream Machine
Do you remember the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a singer. When I was five years old, I used to tape record myself singing "You Are My Sunshine," "The Rainbow Connection," and "Wendy." My mother would play the tapes in the car as she drove. My first public debut was playing Ngana in South Pacific at the age of eight at the Air Force Academy. I sang, danced, and acted my way through school. But then my ballet teacher told me my legs weren't long enough to ever make it into a company. My voice coach told me I had a nice voice, but nothing I'd ever make any money with. My acting coach told me I wasn't cut out for the big screen. Then I saw Zig Ziglar present at a motivational rally when I was fourteen years old, and I was hooked. I wanted to be
Zig Ziglar. I said to myself, "Hey, a little song and dance, a lot of acting, and I get to be in front of an audience. Perfect!"
No matter what my ballet teacher or acting coach told me, I was blessed to have parents who told me I could do anything I dreamed of if I worked hard at it. It's not enough to set your mind to something; you must also plan your time around those goals. So I set my sights on being a professional speaker. When I set that goal, it acted like a magnet, pulling me toward it. I interviewed professional speakers and discovered most of them owned their own businesses. Perfect! I'd owned lawn mowing and babysitting businesses in junior high school. So I based my high school and college curriculum around fully understanding how to run a business. I took speech, drama, marketing, instructional design, communication, and organizational management classes--all skills I knew I would require as a speaker. I skipped my last year of high school and received both undergraduate and master's degrees in business by the time I was twenty-one. Then I looked for my first job as a corporate trainer to start gaining "real" experience. The realization of my dream required some goals and action.
You need goals to:
*clarify your objectives in life,
*help guide you in the right direction,
*enable you to decide what's most important in your life,
*help you monitor yourself as you advance toward a desired outcome, and
*use your abilities more effectively.
Excerpted from Leave the Office Earlier by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. Copyright © 2004 by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.