Having a list of goals can be a great way to make us as productive as possible. But like everything else in life, if we overdo it, we run the risk of ending up with nothing to show for our shiny list of goals.
In fact, a list of goals should be as laser-focused as short. For example, if we want to increase our writing output, it’s doubtful at best the usefulness of adding to our list something like running 40 miles a week.
Sure, running is a great way to keep in shape and in good health, and a better oxygenated brain is also a better functioning brain… Still, running doesn’t relate directly with our writing routine. So, maybe, it would be better to keep it on a separate list. One whose aim is optimal health rather than massive writing output.
A short list is useful for a simple psychological reason. In fact, when we look at a very long list and see all those tasks waiting for us, we tend to be immediately disheartened. Because the list is too long. There are too many things to do and too little time. So, with a sigh, we discard it entirely.
I don’t know about you, but for me a list should never be longer than three or four items. In this way I don’t feel instantly disheartened and I go through it with more enthusiasm.
We must learn to prioritize. To really understand what it is we really want, and go for it tuning out the rest.
Short but impossible
Next week’s things to do:
1 Run a marathon
2 Write two novels
3 Learn Chinese
The above list is pretty short, no doubt about that. But I would say it’s just as problematic as a very long list.
For sure, I could run a marathon, even if usually my runs are only between five and ten miles long. And then I could manage two novels. I mean, I could read two novels.
As for learning Chinese, I would probably need a week only to understand the basics of accentuation of such a fascinating language.
In short, also such type of list is doomed to be discarded. Because it’s unrealistic.
In fact a list should nudge us out of our comfort zone. But just a little bit. To help us grow more efficient and productive. But a list that is unreasonably demanding will be again discarded.
In fact we have to find the sweet spot between our goals and the time frame within which we want to reach them.
Indeed, even though Rome wasn’t built in a day, we should consider the tasks on our to do list like bricks we want to use to build our personal Rome. A step at a time.
At the same time we must also be aware that now and then a task on our list may lose its significance–this is also why short lists work better, they don’t have time enough to get old.
In any case we must be ready to replace a no longer so important task with a new one. A to do list is a tool, not some sort of chain.
Make it real
Finally we’d better write our list down on a piece of paper and put it where we can see it daily. There’s nothing as ineffective as a list that hangs only on the walls of our mind.
To start with nobody knows about such a list. So if we don’t follow through, we don’t have to explain anything to anyone.
Secondly, having an actual list hanging from a wall, or stuck to our monitor helps us to consider our goals more real.
Because we don’t only think about them. We can also see them out in the world. And read them. Maybe even out loud. And our spouse will most likely be asking you about them…
Provided it works, who cares?
In this way, even if we ended up being extremely productive only to save our face with our meaningful other, that would nonetheless be a success. As Archimedes said, give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.