Use Your Brain! Making Lists and Goal Setting

January 21, 2011

by Bill Harrison

Now, what if I came to your office and suggested you turn off all the computers in your company? "What! Are you nuts?", might be your response. (Although there was a time we all lived without these pesky machines)

What if you had access to the most awesome computer ever designed? Interested?
That computer is right between your ears - your brain. But you need to learn how to use that complex and powerful computer.

First, there is a part of your brain that is designed to do one thing extremely well - WORRY! I know you have experienced that part - most of the time. It is really good at it. My favorite quote is: "I've had a lot of problems in my life - most of which never happened." - Mark Twain.  We need to learn how to use this computer.

The Secret
When you write anything down it automatically turns on that powerful computer in your brain. Putting it on a computer list does not have the same effect. Write it down. Did I say this was automatic? It is! The computer is designed to do one thing - find solutions.

Do you make to-do lists? If not, start today - start right now. When you write things down it slips from the worry part of your brain and flows directly to the computer. You will be amazed at the ideas that come from doing this; the first time you try it. This is not some woo-woo concept, but based on twenty years of solid brain research.

Look at your to-do list and identify those items that must be done today or you can't go home; or you have to take work home. Write those on a separate list. Surprisingly, you won't have something on this list every day. But, if you miss one of these items; what happens? You go into overload. Most folks overwhelm themselves!

When you jot down your to-do list, put in any deadlines for the item. Many deadlines are imposed from others; some are your own.  If you have any that must be done today or else; start on it/them first. When it/they are done, go to the next deadline and start on it. Get stuck on something; waiting for a call back, etc., go to the next deadline.

This process will give you excellent clarity of priorities and keep you totally focused; no matter what happens during your day.  Keep the must be done today list clearly in front of you; don't hide the list away somewhere. You must be able to see it all the time.  Does this sound better than having everything in your head?

Please get this; it is critical. We are hardwired to want closure. We want to start and finish a project in one setting. We say: "When I get the time, I will work on this item." Sound familiar?  We rarely get blocks of time to do things from start to finish. When we put something off until we have the time to work on it; what happens? We rush through it and do it half-butted. Can you relate to this?

We sometimes must eat the elephant a bite at a time. Understand, when you do this you will feel very uncomfortable at first; that closure thing. If you take it a bite at a time, when it hits your must be done today list you have 50 - 75% of it done already. Then you are not pressured to get it completed.  We all know what happens when we are pressured to get it done, don't we?

Goal Setting
You will immediately see how this relates to our writing things down and getting the computer involved.  The rule for goal setting is that a goal must be SMART.
Specific - we have to reduce expenses is not very specific. We have to reduce gasoline expenses by 10% is.
Measurable - the more specific the easier it is to measure. If you can't track and measure it you are wasting your time.
Able to see it - we should be able to put it on a chart or graph, etc.
Realistic - you can't play the super bowl every day. Do not perform "pie in the sky" goal setting.
Time focused - it must have a deadline, a real time one; not next month or by the end of the year.

Let's try - we have to reduce gasoline expenses by 10% by January 30, 2011. Do you think we can fit this into the SMART system?  To get buy in we can have others help us set some goals; be patient with folks. Get them to buy into the concept and you will soon be setting sharper goals; and more aggressive ones.

If you find you are hitting some goals very easily, set higher goals next time. Do not push this beyond the realistic level; you will learn what is most realistic by using the goal setting process. Goal setting moves us beyond the "talking about it stage" to the "doing something about it" stage.

Do you agree we spend way too much time in the talking about it stage? I have found that too many clients get stuck in the talking about it arena.

How many goals can you set? You cannot establish a goal unless you have a "champion" for that goal. One champion can take on no more than two goals at a time; and only one if it is a big and/or complex goal. Too often we overload a champion and he does a poor job on every one.

The champion does not need to do all the work himself; he usually needs the assistance and cooperation of others. Be careful when the team required involves lots of other champions. The champion role is to see that the goal gets tracked and measured, reported on regularly and then gets done. Do not panic if some goals miss the deadline; you are learning how to do this.

What do you do when a champion completes a goal? Set a new goal. You should always be in the goal achieving mode. 

If you are not in this mode you need to start today.

Copyright 2010 by PLI, Inc.
The Phoenix Leadership Institute, Inc.
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