Goals, tasks, and priorities are the key ingredients to creating a plan for an epic life.
These concepts are there for you to gain more control of your life.
Ok, but when do you even start from?
You start with control of your time if you want to be productive and successful.
No, I don’t mean you need to follow a plan, no matter what.
Frankly, life doesn’t care about your plans. You should.
Start making conscious choices. Your day is full of things that require your focus and energy.
Be the protagonist of your own story. Move and act towards what is really important for you.
To control your time means knowing where your focus should be and the trade-offs of shifting it around.
This is easier said than done. So, today I want to talk about:
- How to create the center of your focus: your goals
- How to create the small steps towards your goals
- How to happily integrate your goals in your life by setting and communicating your priorities
- How to use your progress to keep moving forward
These are all big topics, so brace yourself for a deep dive in the sections below. We start with creating goals.
Turn your wishes into goals. Verbalize what you want and own it.
Ok, but where do you even start?
Thousands of stories around you inspire your wishes. Your skillful colleagues, friends, partner, and/or kids are part of your daily life.
You interact with people online. You admire certain artists, athletes, streamers, or actors.
I want you to move a step further. Please take that inspiration and start writing your own inspiring story.
Maybe you want to live healthier. Perhaps you want to advance faster in your career. Or you want to be more productive.
These are just wishes. They are not goals yet, let alone plans for your epic life.
Turning a wish into a goal starts with you getting something to write!
Let me show you how:
Do you want a real-life example?
Let’s say your partner inspired you to be fit.
You sit and write your wish down.
This is the first version of your goal. It looks something like this:
“I want to be fitter.”
You ask yourself why you would want this.
Whatever the why behind your wish, it is crucial to be honest and sure about it.
There are a lot of reasons for your wish. Explore all of them.
Reason 1: Maybe, you want to spend more time together. Training is one way to do it.
Reason 2: Maybe, you want to feel better and healthier.
Reason 3: Maybe, you want to introduce a habit in your routine that helps you be more productive.
Reason 1023: you name it
Let’s say you are 300% sure it’s the third reason.
You end up with your real wish. You write down:
“To have more energy in my day, I want to exercise regularly.”
The last step is a neat trick I discovered. Replace the “I want” part with “I will.”
The final version of your goal is:
“To have more energy in my day, I will exercise regularly.”
Goal-setting is a skill. You will get better at it while you practice. Let me offer you some options to get you started.
Learn the skill of goal-setting.
You can use whatever you want, as long as you write while creating your goals.
Writing will help you make better goals, especially in the beginning.
For the writing part, I prefer pen and paper.
There are a lot of planners that provide a streamlined way of creating goals and a reflection space.
I use an incredible gift from a fantastic friend.
Sadly, you cannot order it outside Europe. The closest thing to it is the Legend Planner I found for you on Amazon (this is not an affiliate link).
You can use an online tool as well: Notion or Evernote. There are a couple of free apps that can help you with goal-setting. I have not used any of them, so google and choose.
Understanding the reason behind your wishes is a bit trickier.
It starts with being honest with yourself. Sit, reflect and ask yourself questions. You can try “The Five Why’s” as a technique. Check it here.
Or, if you are inspired enough – Simon Sinek’s “Find your why” book and course (again, not an affiliate link) can help.
Creating your goals is just the first step towards your plan for an epic life. So what’s next?
Well, time to get real – you have some work to do to get there.
Get real. Create tasks that serve your goal consistently.
Why do you need tasks?
Ok, but how to create tasks that serve your goals?
A good task:
- Is a small action you can do within one day
- It depends primarily on your actions
- It gives you clear criteria on when it is done
- Serves directly the why of your goal
Let’s look at the goal from the previous section:
“To have more energy in my day, I will exercise regularly.”
You might have a variety of tasks there:
Task 1: Buy training shoes.
Task 2: Decide on what type of exercise you are going to do.
Task 3: Select a coach / online training etc.
Those are all one-time small steps to achieve your goal. No harm in creating them. They can even get you started and give you some sense of accomplishment.
They still fail to directly serve the why of your goal.
You want to have more energy in your day. That means you need to exercise every day. The question is, how much time can you afford to do that?
Yes. Mins. Not minutes.
I stole the “5 mins rule” from Jordan. He is constantly teaching young developers to be better engineers. Applying this rule works for them. I tested it many times, and it works for me no matter what my goal is.
The first task you need to create in our example is: ”I will exercise for at least 5 mins per day”.
It is an incredibly useful and liberating formula because:
- It does not demand significant effort to include the task in your daily routine. You can do 5 mins of exercise within one day without the need to turn your day upside down.
- It depends on your actions only. Whether it’s raining or if your coach is sick, you can always exercise for 5 mins at home. You don’t need training shoes, gym membership, or another excuse to miss your regular training.
- After 5 mins, you know your task is done. You can always extend for more time if you feel like it. It will add to the accomplishment.
- It builds the habit and the focus on your long-term goal. You want more energy in your day; that’s why you are not missing even a day.
All right, but stuff happens without asking for your permission. You need to prioritize often to stay on the path towards your goal.
Act. Prioritize for a win-win.
The next ingredient of a plan for an epic life is to set your priorities straight.
This can be incredibly difficult because life doesn’t care about your plans. You should. There are others in your life. People will ask you (consciously or unconsciously) to shift your priorities around.
Ok, but how to do this in reality?
Let’s take this common question:
“Hey, can you do _____ for me?”
When someone asks you to do stuff, take your time to answer these questions in your head:
- What will happen if you don’t do it right now? This question focuses on the impact of your actions/inactions. You need to test your boundaries of what consequences you’re willing to accept. You have more context for an intelligent trade-off with your time.
- When can you do it? This is important. If it’s a daunting effort that has little to do with your goals, it’s better to be honest, and say “no” right now. Don’t forget to recommend a more suitable person to help. If you can do it, just not now – be specific about when you can do it. If you have time to help – by all means, help right away.
- Is someone waiting for you to do it? If you said, “yes, I will do it,” deliver on your promise as soon as you can. The socially acceptable reason to do it is that keeping promises is valued by all people. There is also a selfish reason. The person relying on you will disrupt your focus by asking how it’s going. So prioritize your promises, both for others’ and yours’ sake.
- Why is it important for you to do it? This keeps your focus on the why behind your goals. Some days you will want to procrastinate with serving others’ wishes because you’re tired. You might want to alternate between tasks. As long as it’s your conscious, informed choice, it’s all right. The important thing here is to avoid the trap of going with the flow.
Once you have answered those questions for yourself, communicate.
Train yourself to explain your reasons and priorities. Be thoughtful and respectful.
In our example, your partner might need help in the time you committed to exercise.
You can say something like: “Hey partner, of course, I will help you this morning; I see you’re running late. Just give me 5 mins to finish my exercise. It’s important for me not to skip it. Lately, I feel more energetic, because of it, even after a hard day at work. I want our time together to stay awesome.”
Then act. Finish your task in the time you committed. Help right after it as hard as you can.
People can be very understanding if you communicate and keep your promises. You will be surprised.
Ok, what’s next? How to make your plan for an epic life resilient to uncertainty?
Inspect and adapt. Use your progress to move forward.
Yeah, sure, but how to avoid it?
Monitor your progress. Use it to move forward even if life gives you the lemons that, in all fairness, make tequila a bit more tolerable.
The steps I am offering you are simple:
Step 1: Organize your goals and the small steps you need to reach them in an interactive way.
If you’re wondering how to do this, Jordan has an excellent template here.
You can use planners and stickers. You can use anything you find convenient and fun to work with.
Step 2: Take some time to appreciate your progress during the day
Moving your tasks from “To-do” to “Done,” putting a sticker or a check is a tremendous motivation boost.
I also recommend seeking a community which is encouraging daily progress updates. People there will cheer on your achievements.
Saying “Well done, me!” or hearing it from others will help you do more and crave these nice little bits of dopamine it brings.
Step 3: Take an hour every weekend to reflect on your progress. Adapt.
Have a look at your goals and your tasks. Ask yourself what helps you do your tasks and what is stopping you. Reformulate your tasks if necessary.
Step 4: Feeling down? Stop looking at your “To-do” list, and start looking at your “Done” list.
This is important. Don’t punish yourself with the pile of tasks you haven’t finished yet.
When you look at your to-do list, you look at the effort you need to make in the future. You looked at your losses when you chose to shift your priorities.
When you look at your done list, you look at all the small wins you had.
Let’s face it, you won over that insecure voice in your head, telling you your goal is too challenging or time-consuming.
Don’t let that voice be on the wheel. Show it what you already overcame with your progress.
To be in control of your life means to be the protagonist of your own story. Trust your inspiration and start writing it down.
Anchor it in reality with goals, tasks, and priorities. Build your plot armor against your own insecurities by acting, moving forward, and appreciating your progress.
Enjoy the journey and stay awesome,