“How to actually achieve goals” is the google search phrase that will be carved on my tomb stone. I used it so much when I was still a student and had more goals than time to set them.
But even though a lot of the advice I found was good and logical, it didn’t do much to minimize boredom. (We all have experienced the vicious cycle of “boredom leads to Netflix, Netflix leads to guilt, and guilt means no goal and no freedom.”)
Maximizing productivity and improving your organizational skills is the capitalist goal that you can’t really shake if you dream of being successful. I’ve tried having structure in my daily work and it suffocated me. I’ve tried having a routine and it bored me to death, leaving me unbearably unmotivated. (I get bored extremely easily — I blame that on my Sagittarius nature. But I also love it and wouldn’t have it any other way).
Example of structure: first eat breakfast, then do emails, then lunch, then work, then meal prep for tomorrow, TV, and bedtime. In this specific order. You can variate time depending on the day, though.
Example of a routine: coffee and oatmeal at 7 am; emails at 9; lunch at 12; work until 5 pm; meal prep at 7; TV at 9; bedtime at 11. And that’s every day, at these exact hours.
I found that routine weighs you down; structure confines you. Plus, neither one of these is fun. And since you only get one life, it makes absolutely no sense to do something you don’t enjoy.
However, there was one more not-really-a-synonym synonym of the subject matter left that I hadn’t tried to put to work.
It might have a negative public image because of all the “fight the system” slogans. But creating your own system can, in fact, free you and keep you productive.
So I dropped the first two and focused on developing my system. Somehow, I came up with one and I’m not saying it’s genius, but it is. Feel free to adjust my example to your own situation and use it if it helps you loosen up those capitalistic chains and still work towards your dreams.
Systems differ a lot across people. Even the same person can change their system as often as they want. That’s the beauty of it — you can adjust it to fit your changing needs and preferences without disturbing the process.
I know it’s easy for me to talk. I’m a freelancer. I have a lot more freedom in deciding what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it today.
But I still have deadlines. And very tight, in fact.
I call it “The System.” (duh…)
It solves the I-don’t-feel-like-doing-this-today-leads-to-boredom-leads-to-Netflix-and-guilt problem.
The idea is to get at least 1 to-do done (middle section) in each of the 10 areas (top) to make sure I’m moving forward with my life and my career. It doesn’t matter what order I do it in or what time of the day, as long as they’re done by the end of the week.
This is how you can adjust it to your own organizational needs:
1. Identify the key categories of the path to your ultimate goal.
- What’s your ultimate goal? Mine is two-fold: I want to be a full-time writer and I want to live a nomadic lifestyle.
- What things do you need in order to achieve that goal? In my case, it’s Writing Skills, Money, Publicity, Free Time (Hobbies), and Other (small tasks that just need to be done, such as booking an appointment with a Dr.).
- What skills do you need to improve? These are more detailed aspects of the broad areas you mentioned above. Now add them as the key categories.
2. Figure out the (even more) detailed steps you need to do to achieve your goal.
Here are some examples:
- Add “Read (book’s name) on SEO” under Marketing (a category that’s part of the Publicity area)
- Add “Write (article’s name) for (client’s name)” under Freelance (Money)
- Add “Try out Bob Ross’ painting tutorial” under Painting (Free Time)
Be as specific as possible and keep each to-do as quick to complete as possible. You will never make yourself do it if you think it’s going to take forever.
Add only as many of these under each category as you can realistically handle in one week (or whatever time frame you choose to abide by).
3. Whatever to-do’s are left, add them under the line.
Draw a line at the bottom of the page. Its purpose is to let you see what new you’ll get to do next week if you finish all of the top ones first.
So add the remaining to-do’s under it.
It feels a lot like a game. You collect imaginary points for every little activity you get done, you pat yourself on the shoulder, and it keeps you motivated because you’re proud of being so productive this week.
The System would also work great for a single day. Just keep in mind that people can’t get more than 6-7 things done in one day. It’s a science-based fact. I think.
Don’t push yourself to do more. You’ll simply burn out. And that will lead you back to Netflix and boredom and guilt.
If you want to take your organizational skills to the next level: Organize everything else in your life — Best Life.
On realistic goal setting: Five Golden Rules — Mind Tools.