The Restaurant Approach to Accomplishing Your Goals

Steady Wins the Race

The old adage is “slow and steady wins the race,” but I’ve found that slow doesn’t really help. Now, “fast and steady wins the race” doesn’t exactly thrill me either. Fast leads to burnout.

So I’ve just settled on “steady wins the race.”

Doing the right things each day ensures that you’ll accomplish the most important goals and enjoy life along the way.

If you get five things done in your personal life each day, that’s over 1500 things this coming year.

If you get five things done in your work life each day, that’s over 1000 things at work which is quite a bit.

I’m going to discuss two different approaches to goal setting that I tend to use throughout the year to meet my goals. For those of you who have been reading my goal setting articles through the years at various blogs, today’s approach will seem very familiar.

First of all make a big list

Before you get started on making progress, it helps to write down everything you think you might need to work on. The reason to do this as discussed in the bestseller “Getting Things Done” is that allows your subconscious to relax and stop whispering in your ear that you are forgetting something.

The big list is what I call the “menu.”

Think of your life as a day out at a restaurant. You are the diner and you get to “order” whatever you want, but first you need to list everything on your menu. Now, you’re not going to eat everything on the menu today, you’re just going to eat a few things.

Take ten minutes now to write down everything you can onto a new list or add it to whatever organizational list system you use. When ten minutes is up, go ahead and stop. Tomorrow you can spend another ten minutes adding to your menu. I try to get everything on my menu once a week.

Decide on your top goal for the year

What is your top goal?

Not what are your top GOALS, but the singular – top goal.

The problem is that unless you are independently wealthy, you don’t have enough time to have two top goals or six or twelve. These can be secondary, but when there is time for only one thing, you need to know what that top thing is so you can make the right decision on how to spend your time.

What should you order?

So now you have your menu and you’re probably feeling pretty overwhelmed. My current “menu” list has 291 items on it!

Now, I can’t do 291 items today and I suspect you can’t either.

So what should you order? Here is my tried and tested approach (although I’ll talk about a different approach next Wednesday!).

I’ll talk about why these are important questions in a bit for now, the ordering process is to go through this list of questions and match up something off your menu to correspond to each question.

NOTE: I make a personal list each day and a work list each day.

1) What one thing can you do to move you towards your top goal today?
2) What one thing have you been avoiding?
3) What is one thing you can do that will make your boss or family happy?
4) What is one quick thing you can get done and get off of your list?
5) What is one thing you would like to do?

Fill out your order and then I’ll talk about why these questions will help you make progress in your life and towards your goals.

The “Why” Behind the “Whats”

The purpose of these lists is to help you build a successful, long term personal or professional life by helping you accomplish what is most important to you, reduce your stress level, keep your relationships in working order, give you momentum, and enjoy the process along the way.

Did you notice something about the ultra-long compound sentence that I just wrote? It has five parts to it just like the five questions.

Let’s break them down one by one.

1) Do something that will help you meet your most important goal == Accomplish what is most important to you.

If you make steady progress on your most important goal, every day, you are going to eventually accomplish it. The key is making sure you are truthful about it being your most important goal otherwise you will accomplish something at the end of the day / week / year and still not feel fulfilled.

This should also get priority on the days that you have little to do.

2) Do something you’ve been avoiding == Reduce your stress level.
Stress can be caused by quite a number of things, but one key factor that I’ve found over the years is that stress comes from issues that need to be dealt with instead of ignored.

One example for me is medical bills. I have a very good insurance program and almost everything always gets paid, but usually once a year, a doctor will make a billing error and it will require a few ten minute phone calls to the insurance or the doctor’s office.

For years, this would stress me out and I would put off the calls for weeks on end until some deadline pushed me to make the call. Nothing was accomplished by waiting to deal with the situation and my personal discomfort level simply grew and grew.

Unsure how to pick this out? Look at your menu and whatever gives you heartburn is the best choice. If you can’t handle that today, pick one out that’s needed to be done for a month or more.

Deal with it now, whatever it is.

3) Doing something that will make your boss or family happy == Keeping your relationships in harmony.

For some of you, your relationships need more help than just this, but if your spouse has asked you a hundred times to fix the leaky faucet or replace the light bulb in the hallway, I can guarantee you that both of you will be happy if the problem is taken care of.

The same logic applies at work. If your boss asks you once a week about the letter to the such and such client, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that she will be a lot happier once the letter is in the mail.

Sometimes I’m not sure what to put in this slot, but I have a foolproof fix for that – I ask!

Often, I am surprised by my wife’s response to this question. It may be as simple as going to bed earlier because she’s noticed I’ve been grumpy lately.

4) Do something that can be accomplished quickly == Build your momentum.
Even on the worst days, this “to do” item can get knocked off because it’s quick.

When you crawl into bed at the end of an otherwise unproductive day, you can at least say “Well, at least I took the trashcans out to the curb today.”

Look at your list and you’ll see a gimme just waiting to be knocked off. Put it into the number four slot.

5) Do something that seems fun to you == Enjoy the journey.

This item might not be on your menu because you might think that it’s not something that needs to be done, but just something you want to do.

Write down what you’d do if no one cared what you did. One caveat, it has to be feasible time wise. You can’t write down “Ski the Rockies” if you live in Atlanta. There isn’t time for that.

My list for the day

Here’s my personal list for today (the 3rd) even though this won’t publish to my site until the 5th.

1) Write a book review for the 7th and article for the 5th for kentostby.com.
2) Rework my spreadsheets for the new year. It’s already the 3rd and I don’t have my budget and to-do lists ready for 2011. This should have been done in November.
3) Help my son set up NFL Training Camp for the WII.
4) Sort the mail that I went through after my vacation and move my file folders over for the new year.
5) Get on my favorite gaming site for fifteen minutes.

Life is a restaurant and it’s time to place your order for today.

What’ll you have?

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