Jedi Productivity 2 of 11: The Emperor’s guide to Goal Setting and the 20 Mile March (LT, ST, habits)

This post is part of the Star Wars Jedi Productivity blog post series.  There will be 11 posts coming weekly every Tuesday for… yes… just counted it… the next 11 weeks.  These posts will guide your journey from a wilful, novice young pretender who is controlled by time…  into a magnificent Jedi who uses time as her own power.  The full set of posts are available from here.

The Emperor’s guide to Goal Setting and the 20 Mile March (LT, ST, habits)

“I don’t have enough time” everybody’s excuse

Last week we spoke about the contrast between a “systematic” approach to life, an approach that allows for you to be like a guided missile – unfailingly hitting your targets; versus an “ad-hoc” approach – some great days, some terrible days…  and frustration with the inconsistency of your progress.

Just Waiting, Photo Credit: Kalexanderson

Amateurs wait for inspiration, professionals sit down and start working.  It is amazing how often inspiration decides to come to me when I demonstrate that I am going to sit here and keep writing whether inspiration comes or not.

Today, we’ll talk about Goals.

There is a study that was reportedly done with Yale or Harvard students 40 years ago.  The class at Yale was asked “who here has written their goals down?”.  10% of the class said that they had their goals written down.  30 years later, all of the most successful graduates were part of the group that had “written their goals down”.  90% of all wealth was in the hands of those 10% who had written goals.

I don’t know if this study really happened.  I can’t find any real references with a simple search in google.  Maybe it did, maybe it did not.  It is most likely an internet invention, but the story rings true.

Simon Sinek gave a powerful TED talk “Start with Why“.  Those with a clear reason to keep moving forward will achieve much more than those who have no over-riding reason for the journey.  Without a “why”, you’ll sensibly give up at the first apparently insurmountable obstacle.

Goals are a way of articulating your why.  The idea is not to lock them in at age 20 and never, ever change them.  The idea is to systematically ask yourself “what do I desire?  what do I want? what is important to me?  where would I love to be in 5, 10 or 20 years?”  The answer will never be right, but the mere fact that you set aside time to ask yourself the questions greatly improves the chance that the hours and hours of your life will add up to the creation of something that you are proud to show to others, and have an inner satisfaction for yourself.

Don’t Confuse Goals with Purpose

This is a great danger.

I do this often.  Imagine we are going on a journey.  Initially we decide that we really want to get to Machu Pichu, but also see lots of stuff along the way.  In order to get to Machu Pichu we have to travel 1000 miles.  We have 100 days.  We could have a daily goal of 10 miles.  Lets make sure we do 10 miles each day.  Now, as I set this goal I don’t mean it to become more important than “enjoy the ride”, but as we start our journey and things become uncertain… you and I start to hold on harder and harder to the few certainties that we do have.  One is that 10 miles a day is important.

We manage to mess up the whole experience of the journey by stopping being in the moment and focussing on the number 10.

Goals are there to keep you moving, but they are not purpose.  You need to write something down, you need to have a reason for your motion… but you have to be careful.  We will go deeper into this idea in later posts.  For now, lesson is that written goals are good (but don’t mistake them for the experience of the journey).

How do I set goals?

I have 4 processes for setting goals.

  1. Review my Past Experiences
  2. Draw pictures of how I would like my life to be in 6 areas
  3. Make a bucket list of experiences I would like to have
  4. Have a daily 20 mile march set of Process goals

Review My Past Experiences

I write every day.  I started this habit when I was 14 years old.  It is a wonderful source of information about what I was thinking, feeling, doing and planning when I was 20, 25, 30, 35.  I learn a lot about what is important to me by reflecting on my journey so far.

Draw Pictures of 6 Areas

I have 6 areas of life that are important to me: Health, Peace of Mind, Relationships, Money, Contribution and Spiritual.  Instead of writing down goals, I draw an image of what fulfilment looks like for me in each of these 6 areas.  Try it now.  Draw a picture that represents the health that you want in your life.

Bucket List

A big long list of places I want to visit, people I’d like to meet, skills I’d like to learn, languages I’d like to know 10, 20 or 1000 words in, experiences I want to live.  Open a text document, give it a title “My Bucket List” and start adding items.

20 Mile March

What must I do every day to be the person that I want to be.  I write 500 words every day.  (even Saturdays and Sundays).  Aristotle said that we are our daily habits.  If you write a page a day, you’ll have a book in a year.  If you do 10 minutes yoga every day, you’ll have a flexible body at 70.  If you eat 5 vegetables every day, you’ll have strong bones.  If you wash your teeth every day, you’ll have teeth at 55.  (PS you cannot wash your teeth 7 times on Sunday to make up for not doing it during the week).

What are the projects or skills or endeavours that are most important to you.  Do 20 minutes of progress towards these objectives every single day.  What will you measure?  In writing, 20 minutes will give me 500 words.  I measure words.  If you want to study a language – what measure could you use for daily progress?  Minutes of study?  Number of new words?  There is no right answer, but you will know if you are cheating yourself.

How do I know if my goals are right?

I used to be very worried about this.  Is my plan a good plan?  How do I justify that I want to write a book, give a speech to 5000 people, teach a class in China?  I worried about being able to explain why.

Now, I don’t worry.  I write down what comes.  I don’t ask why it comes to me, or why I should want this.  I put it down on the page.  I find that as I go on, I find that the original goal idea is not where I get to – but the thing that I value, I would never have had the opportunity if I had not been going after the original target goal.  The key is to have a reason to get off the sofa and out into the world.  Life happens out there, beyond the front door of your house, beyond the panels of your office cubicle.

Goals, that honestly come from within, cannot be wrong.  If what comes to you is “I want to own a Ferrari” – well write it down.  What resources do you need in order to achieve this goal?  Start working towards having those resources.  It may be that you achieve your goal of the Ferrari and you enjoy it, it may also happen that along the journey towards being able to own a Ferrari, you learn new things and realise that you have a change in perspective and you change your goal.

Separate Doing from Planning

Don’t question your goals all the time.  Don’t question your goals when the going gets tough.  Set a specific weekly time that you review your goals.  Add new ones, adapt old ones and delete those that became irrelevant.  If “run a marathon” is on your list, the time that you should not question this goal is 13 miles in when you start to feel pain in your legs.

Goodbye Ad-Hoc, Hello Systematic

In order to be a full Jedi time manager, the novice must learn to use proven tools such as:

  • Prioritising
  • Goal Setting
  • Deadlines
  • Delegation
  • Planning

That’s what this post series is all about.  You will become a master of the force and a power user of the tools of systematic, habitual action.

Are you a Jedi guided missile?  Are you systematic in how you set goals and make daily progress on what is important?  Or, are you more of an ad-hoc novice?

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Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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