I love planning. I love to spend time analysing the goals I want to achieve and then break them down into manageable tasks, finally coming up with a chart or worksheet which assigns days and timeslots to each requirement. Working on my plan not only gives me a sense of calm and control, but it also enthuses and motivates me…it makes me want to get going!
So, having set out my goals and broken everything down into tasks, you’d think that I would race towards my goals with no problems whatsoever, but like most people this just isn’t the case. We’ve talked about distractions before, but today I want to delve a little deeper and take a different angle.
Have you ever considered that despite all your planning you might actually be living into someone else’s goals? Think about it this way: do you notice an innocent tendency to put more effort into someone else’s needs than your own goals? Picture this…
A friend calls me up and asks if I wouldn’t mind driving her to the gym as her son has borrowed her car, but he can pick her up later she assures me. It’s really only a 20 minute round trip, so of course I say yes. Over an hour later, I’m finally back at my computer trying to meet my writing deadline. The muse evaporated long ago; around about the time I felt the little twinge of resentment when we had to call at the supermarket on the way to the gym to pick up a few things she was missing for the dinner party she’s hosting tonight. Of course my friend is a very happy lady; she’s achieved her fitness goals for the day and is looking forward to an enjoyable evening!
By contrast, I’m frustrated and resentful; I’ve allowed a key part of my day to fall into someone else’s plans and will now spend the rest of the day feeling rushed, the calm and control that previously existed gone.
Variations of this type of scenario crop up regularly. The pleas for help are different but the outcome is usually the same. There’s a great quote by Jim Rohn which sums up the effect of this tendency to help others at the expense of our own goals very powerfully:
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
This is a stark reminder of the importance of not only working out what you want for your life, but also of the need to take the time and make the effort to do the work to get there. In other words, we must always protect our goal time otherwise there’s a very good chance that we’ll fall into someone else’s plans which will ultimately take us off course.
Now, I don’t advocate that we stop helping other people! I love to see others succeed at their goals, and if I can help in their quest I’m more than happy to do that. No, what I’m saying is that we all need to be keenly aware of our priorities and then take a measured view as to whether the request for help fits with our plans at that time. After all, in many cases, we can help later.
So how do we protect the time we plan to spend on our goals? Well, I think it’s about controlling expectations, not yours incidentally, but the expectations others unknowingly place on you. In some ways you could call them your personal rules. In the business world this is common practice, businesses attempt to control customer expectations in order to avoid complaints etc. Similarly we can do the same. It’s important to place barriers around your key working times (this is especially true if you work from home), the times when you will not respond to requests for help, other than to assure the requestor that you will help later. If you can stick to this regime, then in time the requests will slow and then probably stop altogether as others respect your working times.
Consider writing out some personal rules and placing them somewhere you will see them often, as a reminder of an ideal to work towards. Share your new rules with those nearest to you so that they won’t consider your plans a personal rebuff, and then work the rules as often and as consistently as possible. You’ll likely see an increase in your productivity and/or progress towards your goals which will make you feel happier, and of course, if you feel happier, everyone around you will benefit!
So what sort of rules do you already have? Do they work? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts and experiences, you never know who you might help!