The amount of time you spend on the very few activities necessary to achieve a goal or a specific outcome is one way to measure how important is the goal, and how serious you are about making it. It is easier to want something than it is to bring that thing to life. More time spent in pursuit of what’s most important is proof that you are willing to do the work necessary to reach your goal. Time spent on things that don’t move you towards what Future You wants, or worse, things that move you further away from your goals, means you are not committed to the outcome. Here is how you never compromise on your goals.
Activities Unrelated to Your Goals
Time requires you to choose. If you are not intentional about deciding what to do, you will invariably find yourself caught up in “The Drift,” passively waiting, responding to anything and everything that grabs your attention. Most of what vies for your time will have nothing to do with your goals.
The most significant sources of distraction and novelties with the power to pull you into “The Drift,” include your email inbox, the social sites, the things that interest you, and the constant barrage from media designed to capture your intention, mostly with provocative or negative information.
- Inbox: It is unlikely that what shows up in your inbox has any relevance or value as it pertains to your goals. Most of what you find there are other people’s priorities, their requests, and unbelievably vast amounts of things that provide zero value in trade for your time. What shows up there pulls you in a direction that is almost certain to move you away from the work you need to do to achieve your goal. The overwhelming amount of emails can paralyze you, which is why you should avoid opening your inbox until you have made progress on your goal. The time you spend here is expensive, and it comes at the cost of your goals.
- Social: The social sites have ushered in a communications revolution, making everyone a content creator at different levels. It has also made each of us more of a content consumer. The sites you frequent most often are designed to keep you on the platform. The more you scroll, the more valuable you are to their business model, a model that depends on you staying online and clicking on advertisements. Welcome to “The Drift,” where one link leads to the next, and you find yourself clicking your way through a more substantial part of your day than would be healthy – at an expense that is much too high.
- Media: If you care about sports, entertainment, politics, global affairs, or some popular television show, there is no end of options of things that have nothing to do with your goals. Add to this a media that is mostly designed to provoke you, create an emotional response, and capturing your attention, and you have the perfect storm of distractions. Unless you work in media and have goals around these things, the time you spend here to moves you further away from your goals.
You can have your goals, or you can have your distractions. You cannot have both.
Activities Necessary to Reach Your Goals
Because time requires you to choose how you will use it, you have the power to decide what you will do, and more importantly, what you will not do with your time. The best decision is to let Future You, the better you that you imagine and are working towards creating, make the decision. Future You is a more disciplined version of yourself, you that wants something more, that is becoming something more.
There are very few activities necessary for reaching your goals. These few things must dominate your time. The greater your investment of time, provided you are competent, the more confident you will achieve your goal. You can think of this as a metric we might call “time against goal.”
If you want to reach your sales goal, the time spent prospecting and in client meetings is one way to measure your effort, your willingness to do the right work, and the likelihood you reach your goal. Time spent on things that do not produce new opportunities or allow you to win them deprive you of time and move you further away from your goal. One of the most common ways salespeople miss their goal is because they don’t spend enough of their time selling. They don’t sell enough, because they very literally don’t sell enough.
If you want better relationships, spending time with the people that matter most is a metric that indicates how important that goal is to you. Communication is easy. Real communication, your full focus and attention, and your presence is more complicated. There may be no bigger gift one can give another than their full presence. If you seek work-life balance, think less in terms of hours and more in terms of hours of presence.
Whatever your goals, the work necessary to achieve it needs to dominate your calendar. When you allow something less than your highest priorities, command your time and energy, it takes more time to reach your goals—if you reach them at all.
Your goals require that you make values-based decisions. You have to decide that “this” is better than “that.” All things cannot be equal, and because time requires you to choose, you have to determine your priorities, without which, you will drift.
Without clarity about what is most important, you allow everything to come into your world, make demands on your time, your attention, and your energy, while your goals and outcomes go without the time that should be dedicated to what you want, and not what shows up.
Everything you decide to do—or not do—should have to pass through filters tight enough to deprive those things that are meaningless while letting through what is critical to what you want in the future.