How to focus on one goal when you have ten

I envy my son.

He has a single goal — to be the best football  player he can be.  Each day, he wakes up thinking of football, playing football, gaming online in a football realm.

When I mentioned my frustrations with goals, he looked at me and said, “you just try to do too many things at once.”

That’s when I decided I needed another approach.

The smart money is on those who can limit themselves to one goal at a time, but for the rest of us, there is hope.

A simple two step process:

1) Rank your goal choices

2) Always work on your top goal every day.

I will skip the details of goal setting in general as it is well documented what is required in a goal (specific and measurable (when and what)).

So you are sitting there with around half a dozen goals that you would like to accomplish by a certain date. In my case, I had four goals that I wanted to accomplish by the end of October.

a) Take all of my excess cash flow and direct it into savings.  Set up the process and the amount to put into each account prior to the deadline.

b) Create gaming tools that allow me to excel in my gaming environment with no more than four hours of time spent per week.

c) Get down to (redacted) pounds or (redacted) percentage of body fat.

d) Edit and self-publish my novel.

At first glance, it might seem that the obvious top choice would be the novel or the finances.  After all these seem to be the most important. But, importance doesn’t help you focus when your tired and trying to push yourself.  Instead, you have to have your emotions in line with goals so that you remember on a day to day basis why you are scuffling along when other people are floating with the tide.

Over at Man vs Debt,   Adam Baker posts about a method he uses for ranking financial based on the EMOTIONAL value derived from accomplishing each one.  His basic approach is to close his eyes and imagine, one-by-one, how it would feel to accomplish each goal and to give that feeling a numerical value.

When I do that with the goals above, I come up with these values:

a) Save money — 6

b) Gaming tools written — 4

c) Get in shape — 9

d) Finish novel — 8

Now, aside from highlighting my vanity, this brings great clarity to what I should be focusing on.

The second part is to make sure you are working on the goals in order each day.  For me, I use Microsoft Onenote and create a new “page” in my notebook for each of the days from when I started my goals (June 1st) to when I plan to finish (October 31st).  Any type of notebook, spreadsheet, or just scrap paper will do.

For each week, I map out a series of activities that I can do for each of these four goals during the coming week.  I do this on Saturday night when my previous week ends and rolls over to Sunday morning.

Then each morning, I look at my schedule and schedule in a workout or shopping trip for low calorie foods to make sure I’m focused on Goal A.  On really busy days, that’s where it ends.  On less busy days, I’ll plan on ways to work on all four goals.

After four weeks, how am I doing?

a) Goal A — I’ve lost five lbs and almost one percent body fat.

b) Goal B — I’ve edited 15 chapters in the novel I want to publish and written one chapter in my next book.

c) Goal C — I’ve identified the amounts of cash flow from various sources and opened up a new savings account for the money I want to save.

d) Goal D — I’ve created a tool for one of my games and am populating it with data on a regular basis.


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