The principle that we will be discussing in the second week of our purposeful living program is personal management. We will focus on goal setting, time management and strategies to address procrastination.
If you don’t know about the 12-week Purposeful Living program that we will be journaling about until the end of March, I encourage you to read about last week’s Mirror Principle and my feedback on how I was able to tackle the assignment from last week.
Our purposeful living life-coach, Bianca van Wyk, released her second video in the Purposeful Living program yesterday, which tackles the principle of personal management.
This week Bianca gets right into the nitty-gritty of it all and the real hard work seems to start here. She starts off the video by outlining the focus areas, before moving straight into one of the most fundamental parts of purposeful living: setting goals.
Now when it comes to setting goals, Bianca suggests that we “Be SMART about it”, to set goals that are easy to understand, achievable and with a clearly defined point of success. Our goals need to be:
S – Specific: They answer specific questions about your goal (Who? What? When? Where? Which)
M – Measurable: How will you measure your goal? (concrete evidence, numbers, facts, feelings)
A – Achievable: Can you accomplish this goal? (using concrete resources, time money, talent)
R – Relevant: Is this goal relevant? (consider your object, why do you want to achieve this goal?)
T – Time-bound: What is the timeline? (Create achievable deadlines, review and provide feeedback)
Bianca takes us through the example of a specific goal that someone may set, such as “to be rich”. She goes over the specifics about who, what, when, where and why.
The “who” is me, because I want to be rich. That “what” is where we start to get specific and we say I want R6 million in my bank account. The “when” is when I’m 55-years-old, the “where” is irrelevant and the most important question, the “why” is because I want to retire.
These kinds of specifics can make all the difference and what’s also important is the measurable.
“We can only measure something if there’s a number, if there’s a yes or a no or a true or false,” Bianca says. In this case, my number is R6 million. If, by the time I turn 55, I have R5.9 million in the bank, I have not reached my goal. If I reach R6 million, I’ve reach my goal, obviously.”
We then turn to whether our goals are achievable: Can I save R6 million by the time I turn 55? “I feel I can,” Bianca says. “So yes it’s achievable.”
Setting smart goals means that you can’t set goals that are too easy because you’re just going to put it off. And it can’t be totally unachievable either, because then you’ll just give up as soon as you realise it’s not possible. And then you have to ask whether your goal is relevant.
Why do you want this?
“So that I can retire.”
The why is important because it links your goal to feelings. And that makes sure that you stay focussed on the goal.
For a goal to be time-bound, we need to look at deadlines. In the instance of Bianca’s R6 million retirement fund, she looks ahead to her 55th birthday and clearly demarcates it as the deadline for her to achieve her goal. It’s very specific and putting a date on it is important.
Therefore the goal of “I want to be rich”, transforms into the SMART goal of “I want R6 million in my bank account, so that I can retire, by 30 January 2029.”
Once your goal is set, it’s important for you to decide how you’re going to manage your time. Bianca then introduces us to the Time Management Matrix. The matrix is made up of four quadrants made up of tasks.
Bianca spends some time describing what this matrix actually means and says that the areas that you need to focus on in the matrix is in the important but not-urgent quadrant.
“The problem is that, these days, we spend a lot of our time in the urgent quadrant because we procrastinate or we don’t actually plan,” Bianca says. “And then, what happens is that something that could have been dealt with becomes a crisis or an emergency. For an example, something from the not-urgent and important group might be your annual visit to the dentist.
“But you don’t do that; instead, you wait until you have a toothache. And then you have a crisis where you actually have to go to the dentist. And what happens is that you have to have a root canal and miss work. You miss out on time that you could’ve been spending on something else, because you actually didn’t plan to go to the dentist.
“If you had planned, on the other hand, you would have found a problem before there was one,” Bianca adds. “And you would have been able to deal with it.”
Bianca goes on to say that the no-important but urgent quadrant is usually what’s important to somebody else. It’s something that they’ve failed to plan for and left for too long, and they’re just turning it into your problem. The “busy work” in the fourth, not important, not urgent quadrant is made up of meaningless activities such as spending time on social media when you don’t need to, engaging in office gossip, etc.
“It’s very important to take a look at where you are spending most of your time now, so that you can get control over how you run your day,” Bianca explains. ”
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Superimposing the Eisenhower decision matrix onto the time management matrix is a way to figure out exactly what actions we need to take in specific circumstances.
If it’s important and urgent, you need to do it now. You don’t have any time to do it any other time,” says Bianca. “You can’t procrastinate, you’ve now put yourself under pressure.”
“There are things you may not have control over. For instance, if your child falls sick, it’s urgent and important that you take your child to the doctor. But mostly, the actions that fall into that urgent and important quadrant are there because we haven’t addressed something.”
She then moves on to tell us why the next quadrant is so important.
“In the important but not urgent quadrant, there’s time to decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. Schedule a time to do it and put it in your diary and make sure you do it.
“If all you do is work under pressure, you’ve got no idea how good you are when you actually have the time to do something.”
She also suggests that we figure out ways to delegate urgent but not important tasks and the best way to handle not important and not urgent tasks is to simply eliminate them.
The 80/20 principle
The next useful tool Bianca provides us with is a method that we can use to ensure that we’re focusing on the right things… the 80/20 principle.
“The most interesting thing about the 80/20 principle is that it gives you the ability to analyse your goals, and tasks differently,” she says. “You will start to tackle what will give you the best results and bring you closer to what you want to achieve.
“This will help you to focus and, more importantly, handle one task at a time. This will make an immense difference, because human beings aren’t as good at multi-tasking as we think we are.”
So you need to take a look at all of the tasks you do throughout the day and decide which ones are the ones you need to focus on. “You’ll notice that 20% of your efforts will produce 80% of the results. And you need to be ruthless in eliminating what is not bringing you results,” Bianca adds.
Why do we procrastinate?
Bianca takes a look at one of the biggest obstacles for many people: procrastination. She says that identifying the reasons that we procrastinate is important to overcoming this productivity-killing affliction.
Starting with stress, she says that stress and exhaustion triggers a fight-or-flight response, which reduces logical thinking and increases the chances of procrastination. It is important to take care of ourselves in order to avoid getting stressed.
Secondly, she addresses fear, saying “it’s not only fear of failure, but fear of success. If I achieve this, then what? Will the expectations be bigger then?”
The third thing to look at is boredom.
“Some people naturally delay gratification better than others,” she says. “And when we are bored, the desire for immediate gratification increases. When you can easily do a task, you think you can put it off and spend time on the Internet or have a chat with someone. And that task becomes a crisis.”
Bianca then gives us a series of methods that you can use to overcome procrastination.
“Your ability to select your most important task at any point in time, to get started on that task, to get it done quickly, and done well will probably have the greatest impact on your success than any other quality that you can develop,” she says. “If you nurture the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks finished quickly, the majority of your time management issues will simply fade away.”
Bianca takes us through her nine methods that can be used to overcome procrastination, referencing the earlier matrices and a number of examples. You can go to 00:13:45 in the video to get a full breakdown on these methods.
Eat that frog
Bianca uses the example of eating a live frog first thing in the morning, knowing that it’s probably the worst thing that’s going to happen to you all day long. “Your frog is the task that will have the greatest impact on whether or not you achieve your goal,” she says. “And it’s the task that you’re most likely going to procrastinate over when you start.”
She adds that you should eat the ugliest frog first. ie. If you have two important tasks ahead of you, start with the biggest, most difficult and most important task first and be disciplined enough to start that task immediately and persist until the task is complete before you move on to the next task. Resist the temptation to start with the easiest tasks and continually remind yourself that “one of the most important decisions you make each day is your choice over what you will do immediately and what you’ll do later or postpone indefinitely. And finally, if you have to eat a live frog, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for a very long period of time.
“The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is for you to develop a habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning,” she says. “Don’t spend too much time planning what you’ll do. Develop the routing of eating your frog before you do anything else, without taking too much time to think about it.
“What this does, once you’ve completed the most difficult task, is that you actually develop confidence along the way. And it’s most likely that you’ll stop procrastinating, because the fear will go away when you aren’t under this tremendous stress and strain of having this frog in front of you.”
Bianca then gives us a useful exercise to practice and to help put things into perspective. She asks you to do a quick math equation:
What Bianca has done is she’s got a jar with 1196 marbles in it. Every week, she takes a marble out. She sits with her marble and asks herself what she did in that week, who she spent it with, whether she wasted the marble, if it was useful and if she needs to adjust.
By observing and evaluating and interrupting the patterns that lead to wasted marbles, adjusting accordingly.
She says, for the purpose of practicality, you should just pick out 12 marbles to get you through the 12-week purposeful living program and use this to make time more real, more tangible and give you pause to contemplate. It makes time a reality and makes you responsible and helps you realise that there are certain things and certain people that you shouldn’t spend your time on/with.
Taking all of the various things we’ve covered in week two of the program, Bianca sets us a homework assignment to tackle over the course of the week.
Bianca emphasises self-awareness – a lesson we learned last week – and breaking down your goals into smaller, clearer goals.
On Friday, I will bring you the story behind my personal journey through this week’s personal development homework assignment and on Sunday evening we will have a feedback session with those participating in the program.
If you want to join us on our 12-week journey to personal development, send Bianca a DM on Twitter or e-mail her at email@example.com. Next week, we’ll be looking into considerations, fears and obstacles.