Feb 152012

Last year, I had grandiose goals, intended to take an entire year to achieve. I worked at them and throughout the year, I kept checking back to see how I was doing. It was a good year and I accomplished more than I anticipated. Still, I felt like I had not achieved enough. This was weighing heavily on my mind while I was contemplating what goals I should choose for this year.

One of the challenges I faced with last year’s goals was waning interest in some areas I had focused on in January. Those goals didn’t get accomplished, mainly due to the internal resistance that built up over time. I had good intentions in January, but my desires had changed dramatically by midyear.

After long thought, I am taking a different approach to goals this year. I have a few long range goals, so long range they can’t be tied to a single year. Instead, I am choosing smaller monthly goals that are steps to achieving the long range life changes. Each month I will make new goals and create daily tasks designed to keep me focused and moving toward achievement. Once I complete it, I’ll make another that moves me toward the long range goals.

As I read my Christmas book, Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want And Getting It by Henriette Anne Klauser, I started wondering what I was capable of accomplishing. I did as she recommends and started a small journal of all the hopes and desires I have. They range from the well defined to the completely vague. It is from these, I choose my monthly direction.

One dream I have repressed for many decades is the desire to perform a French horn solo with a symphony. So, I wrote that down in my little book. One step is to get back into a symphony again. I wrote that down, too. As I was working through the exercise of choosing this month’s goals, I asked what I could do this month to move me toward those goals. The answer was easy. I needed to get my “new” horn reconditioned and practice 20 minutes every day. That is the goal I made for February. It is smaller and easier to achieve than “solo with a symphony”.

That is the process I went through to make my monthly goals. I looked through my life goals and asked myself what I wanted to do this month to move me toward it. Some things didn’t interest me this month. Others made sense. Here is the list I developed for February:


  • Create a list of savings goals for 2012-2015.
  • Create a report system for my financial goals.
  • Create detailed specifications for the iPad applications my wife wants developed.


  • Decide on topic I want to study this year.
  • Finish reading four books.


  • Perform 15 sessions of sit-ups and pushups.
  • Go running 5 times.


  • Create landscaping plan for 2012.
  • Decide on my next woodworking project and plan it.


I have created a task for each of these goals to be on my list every day to keep me focused. I have had pretty good success so far this month with this method. Breaking things into small chunks is working for me.

Jan 232012

The alarm went off at 5:20 this morning and for a minute or two, I lay in bethinking through my morning routine. I wanted to have a picture in my mind of what I was going to accomplish. I knew if I had that picture, it would more readily be achieved. So, I walked through my morning scripture study and then turned my thoughts to what I wanted to write here.

Last night, I had sat for nearly 20 minutes, trying to think of something to write. Nothing came. I wasn’t interested in anything. I gave up and read a book instead. That was a good decision. For me, writing is something I can’t force. However, this morning, laying there, I thought of this post and laid it all out in my mind in about 15 seconds. Then, I got up and got started.

Why was it so much easier this morning? Aside from being more rested and ready, I spent time away from the keyboard, designing what I wanted to write. Houses are blueprints long before the first nail is hammered into wood. Jumbo jets are blueprints long before the first piece of aluminum is bent. Software programs are sketched out before the first line of code is written.

For a successful creation experience, spend some time planning. Those few minutes of planning can save hours of struggle. Subsequent decisions are rendered easier, once the final product is determined. Each step on the course becomes more evident.

I glanced through my email prior to beginning writing. Once again, Michael Hyatt beat me to the punch. His post this morning, Why Vision Is More Important Than Strategy, was exactly what I wanted to say.

If you have a clear vision, you will eventually attract the right strategy. If you don’t have a clear vision, no strategy will save you.

Read the rest of his post. It is very good. I would like to quote the entire article.

Spend time, as he suggests, writing up your vision. I plan on doing this step very soon. I believe this is what is missing in my life. I have dabbled at parts of the vision, writing my goals and such, but haven’t spent time writing the entire scope of m life vision. Instead, I let the strategy fears take over whenever I start. I haven’t a clue how I am going to accomplish all that I dream for myself. I have big dreams. Too big, at times. Why not dream big and let the strategy take care of itself?

Nov 182011

Originally posted in October 2009 on Mind Like Monkey, another blog I wrote for a time with two great friends, Tara Robinson and Augusto Pinaud. I am struggling a bit with email again. Time to reread my medicine.

As I talked about before, email can become all-consuming of our day. Too easily, I become a slave to email and lose focus on the important things in my job and life. How did I break the habit? I too drastic action and did something few dare to do. I shut down Outlook.

I went to David Allen’s Road Map Seminar to get ideas on implementing GTD better. One of the suggestions he had was to only process email three times a day. By blocking out time to do email, it would leave more time for other important things. It sounded good, but could I do it? After all, I was a self-admitted email junkie, hitting F9 for my next fix.

I decided I needed to give it a try. I set up three recurring 30 minute meetings, at 8:30am, 11:30pm and 3:30pm each day to process email. As best I could, I would limit myself to these times and shut Outlook down in between.

The first stumbling block I hit was my calendar. I didn’t have Outlook running to remind me when meetings were about to start and I missed a few. I solved this by printing my schedule out first thing in the morning and putting it on the desk, right in front of my monitor. That way I could keep track of what was coming up on my schedule.

It was a struggle at first. I worried what others would think. A friend of mine saw my calendar and expressed his shock that I would dare ignore email throughout the day. “Oh, I couldn’t do that! What if [the Vice President] sent me one of his famous ‘I need this right now’ emails?” I didn’t have an answer for him, but since I wasn’t on the VP’s list of ‘I need this right now’ list, I didn’t have to worry about it.

My boss was another big question for me. He was on the VP’s list and occasionally passed those tasks on to me. How would he react? I tried it for two weeks without saying anything to him and he didn’t say a word. I still got the requests and filled them quickly, right after processing my email. A couple of weeks later, we happened to be looking at my calendar for something and he noticed the three email meetings and asked about them. I held my breath and explained the concept to him. He thought it was a great idea and started using it himself. Whew!

Why does it work? Well, what happens when I’m in a meeting and get an email? Or while I am talking with my boss? Or working on something for the VP? I don’t respond to email at those moments and no one complains. They assume I am doing something important. If it is critical (the VP REALLY needs this now!), they wouldn’t leave it to email anyway. They would call. They would come by my cube.

Nearly a year later, not one person has complained. Several have adopted the practice. I have more time to spend on other important tasks. I still have those days when I revert back to my bad habits, but they’re getting fewer all the time. It has been a big time saver for me.