Want to get more done? Focus on goals instead of tasks
29 MAR 20170
Day-to-day life is messy, chaotic, and fast. For many of us, the average work day has become a race against the clock where we always seem to be losing. No matter how much we get done, how many items we cross off the to-do list, it feels like we're just treading water. Putting in day after day of work while never making real progress is demoralizing and exhausting.
But what if we turned our attention around? What if instead of placing so much value on the tasks of the day, we focused more on the goals we want to achieve?
It might sound a little too good to be true, but many professionals are discovering that clarity, not activity, is what really drives performance.
A clear point of view
Most of us start the day with a lot of energy. This is the day we're going to finally push through on that big initiative and get the ball rolling on it! Today we're going to finally make time for that important side project we keep putting off!
Then we get into work, take one look at the mountain of emails in our inbox, and all that red-hot ambition and energy just flat lines. Instead of pushing towards our goals, we spend our days putting out small fires. Constantly reacting to the never-ending stream of requests, questions, and problems that continually expand to fill our working lives. We don't just feel like we're treading water, we are.
Goals on the other hand are entirely based on forward momentum. They're all about long-term vision and achievement. Problem is, they're often too long-term, too remote and aspirational. It's hard to make an argument for working on some distant goal when there are any number of miniature crisis to address right now.
But, that's exactly what we need to do. Put the breaks on. Stop checking your emails every five minutes and taking every single call. Even taking just an hour or two to unplug from the constant stream of noise and focus on a goal each day can have tremendous results on your overall productivity and mental health.
Setting the right goals
Of course, this all depends on setting the right goals. Focusing on too great of a goal doesn't provide a lot of direction to get started. Saying "I want to make our firm the largest marketing agency in Southern Ontario” doesn't inform how you should spend your Wednesday morning for example. At the same time, narrowing the focus down too tightly just creates a to-do list by another name. "My goal is to set a meeting to discuss our latest client acquisition” isn't a goal, it's booking a room and sending out a group email.
So how do we determine what is an appropriate goal? Try to think in terms of "end of the week.” Start the week with a targeted list of objectives that will push you towards a broader goal that you want to see completed before the weekend. Think about structure and progress rather than specific tasks. The nuts-and-bolts of a goal will be met as a matter of course while completing a goal, what you want to focus on is the overall direction you're traveling in and what you need to accomplish to get there. "My goal is to have a workable campaign framework ready for our latest client by the end of the week” is a goal that will give focus to your tasks for the rest of the week.
In the hustle and bustle of the average workday, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. If you feel like you've been sweating bullets, working long hours, and don't have much to show for it, reassess your perspective. Spend some time working on your goals instead of your tasks, and at the end of every week you'll have something concrete to show for your efforts.