Having clear priorities & goals - and making them "SMART"
I know, I know the following doesn't sound like a productivity hack, but trust me, it is having clear priorities helps us place our efforts intelligently. Have you ever sat down to answer a bunch of emails and then found a software update email in one of them? Of course you don't want to forget to update that critical piece of software so you click the link, but then you have to close all your windows and update another piece of software that the first update requires. But of course you got to back up your files and before you know it, you've lost 30 minutes of time. That should have gone to your important emails. Setting priorities helps us be responsible and accountable to ourselves, but not all goals and priorities are created equal. In fact, later on in the course, we're going to learn two different frameworks for assessing the importance of priorities and for determining in which order to do them. Before we do that though, we first need to understand what makes an effective goal. ...
After all, if you're like most people, you've probably set some fuzzy, undefined goals in the past, such as New Year's resolutions to get in better shape only to watch things fall apart. Fortunately there is a methodology for setting effective goals that you can actually stick to. This methodology is called Smart or S M A R T and it originally is a methodology that managers use to get better performance from their employees. Don't worry though because it's just as relevant for helping us manage ourselves. Smart is an acronym for specific a goal should be as clear and precise as possible. Measurable. It should be easy to measure when the goal has been achieved, assign herbal, ambitious or actionable. Now, depending on the goal, it should be either something that you can give to someone else, something that's ambitious or something that you can actually take action on realistic. The goal should be within your reach, even if it will be hard time related. The goal should have a very specific deadline. Let's explore some examples of what smart versus not smart goals look like so that you can see what a difference it makes. Years ago I decided that I wanted to learn some Russian, I set myself a goal to learn the Russian language and I made it a priority in my life. But if I had written out a fuzzy goal like improve Russian skills well, it would be pretty hard to measure or to know if I'd accomplished that. How much is enough by when? What does improvement? Really mean? Does it mean repeating the same sentences with better pronunciation or does it maybe mean being able to recite Pushkin from memory or maybe it means being able to debate the latest policies of the Kremlin. Instead, I decided to write down the goal as follows By December 31, I will be able to hold at least a five minute conversation about common everyday topics such as introductions, whether or personal interests with a native Russian speaker without reverting to English. This goal is specific because I know exactly what topics I'll need to learn about. It's also measurable if I can only last four minutes before resorting to english, I will have failed. It's ambitious because well Russian is very difficult and at the time I could only handle a one minute conversation without going to english. It's realistic though because I was able to acquire that first minute with only 30-40 hours of work and of course because I had to do it before December 31, the goal was time related as you can imagine. Setting these clear goals and priorities helps us know where it is best to invest our efforts. It also helps us focus on what not to do. If I have a goal like the one I just described, you can bet that I'm not working on improving my professional vocabulary and I'm avoiding the temptation to improve my spanish or hebrew skills because that's not the priority at hand. However, what about managing smaller tasks like little priorities and goals that take hours, not months. Well, it's important to write them down and create accurate to do lists after all. I may be a memory expert, but even I can't remember the little tasks and projects that I need to do in my business, my personal life and on my side projects and I wouldn't want to memorize them. This is why it's absolutely essential to have a good capture system somewhere that you put all of your tasks into dues and that helps you make sure that each one of them is smart but which system should you use? Well it's going to depend if you're like me, you have a task management software for your work that helps you coordinate and collaborate with your colleagues, something like base camp Tremolo or Monday or my personal favorite Asana. And I definitely recommend that you use some kind of software out that lets you input two DUIs and set deadlines for them. However, if you're like me, you probably also use some different kind of personal to do list, whether it's one that comes on your iphone or Evernote or something like wonder list And don't worry I'll provide links to all of my top recommended ones in the supplementary materials on the pdf syllabus. Now the thing is with all these different software is being used for different purposes. How the heck are you supposed to prioritize tasks when they're all over the place? That task reminding you to pick up your dry cleaning is in a totally different software website and the task reminding you to update the company website for example. Well there's a great app that I discovered called Taco app which solves this exact problem. It connects to practically every task management software or to do list out there and it imports all of your tasks and then it gives you one clean interface where you can sort your tasks onto the main dashboard and prioritize them across different fields. As you see, I can sort different tasks whether they're for the startup. I work with courses I'm working on or my personal two DUIs. It also updates the various Softwares when you mark something complete and sends you a daily punch list every morning so you don't get distracted by a long scary sidebar of tasks personally. I love that. I can ask Siri or OK google Hey, remind me to pick up paint at the hardware store tomorrow at noon and that ends up alongside my tasks for work allowing me to prioritize whether I'll write another chapter of my book before or after picking up that paint, check it out and see if it's a good fit for you in conclusion setting. Well designed goals and priorities helps us be accountable to ourselves. If you have a smart goal to accurately and politely answer all 27 emails from your colleagues before lunch at 12 30 you're going to have a much harder time procrastinating by checking facebook, getting up for an extra cup of coffee and so on. In fact, that's a perfect segue into our next lecture which talks about the importance of deadlines