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goals, projects and routine next actions

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  • goals, projects and routine next actions

    here's a situation that i could use some advice on. i currently have a goal to become more spiritual. one of the projects that i've identified to meet this goal is to read a particular book.

    does anyone have a suggestion for what next actios would be? my first thought is that it would be to read chapter 1 of the book, but i'm not sure that i will be able to read the entire chapter in one sitting. so then i wonder if i should make a next action to spend half an hour reading the book, but that doesn't seem quite right either. i really want to spend some time each day reading the book.

    so my problem seems to be what is the best way to handle next actions when there is a project that you want to spend time doing each day? another example, might be an exercise plan where you'd like to run 3x per week and lift weights 2x per week. do you have a next action that says run on monday and lift on tuesday? once you've run on monday do you then add a next action to run on wednesday?


    any ideas?

    thanks!

  • #2
    Greetings from NYC/NJ!

    This is an excellent example of something "real world" - and was actually used by another "guru" in HIS model of reality! (lol)

    Here is how I understand your situation:

    1) You have made a commitment to read some of this book each day; but may not know the exact number of pages per day.

    2) You have made a commitment to focus time on this each day; but it may be different lengths of time, and it may be at different times of the day each day.

    3) You may (or may not) have a self-imposed deadline to complete this by.

    In the "G.T.D." world - in my opinion (if all of the above is true) - I would say you should make this a "Repeating Untimed Event" on your Calendar. If you do have a deadline - enter it as the last date that the event ends on. If it was a book that was a lesser personal "priority" (like Doonesbury's Greatest Hits) than I would put it on your Next Action List, under the context where you would normally have the book.

    Comment


    • #3
      Be flexible

      I think you should be more flexible in implementing GTD.
      If you want to read the book put "read the book" next action in your @anywhere context and leave it here until you read the whole book. Read the book and do not waste your time for managing "the reading the book process".
      Put your exercise plan as hard landscape weekly repeating events in your calendar. If your calendar does not support repeating events insert separte events for run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, separate events for lift on Tuesday and Thursday. Each day after exercises or during the day review move this day's exercise event one week ahead.
      Regards,
      TesTeq

      Comment


      • #4
        What's wrong with Doonesbury?

        Comment


        • #5
          Nothing at all is wrong with Doonesbury (lol). Ironically enough, I picked that book because I have it on my own shelf for pure entertainment (no goal or complex outcome associated with it!)

          That brings us back to the original question and the earlier poster....It sounds as if the person who posed this question originally has made a commitment to himself to become healthier physically and spiritually (the book is the exercise for that)

          If both are equally important, and he's got equal energy involved in his commitment to both; I think the book should also go on the Calendar as well (untimed event - see my original reply)

          His spiritual exercise is just as important as his physical - perhaps more.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hmmm... First off, with the definition of "goal" that I use, "becoming more spiritual" isn't a goal. The main reason is that it isn't measurable. You can't say with any certainty whether or not you've achieved it. I like to have goals that are measurable, such that an outside observer could tell with with total binary (yes/no) certainty whether or not the goal has been achieved.

            "Becoming more spiritual," however, can be a great part of your mission statement, i.e. making your spiritual development a key component of your life.

            So the first thing I would do would be to define a more concrete goal. For instance, you might feel that the best place to begin would be to read five books from a variety of authors who are considered experts on human spirituality. That would be a concrete, measurable goal. So then a project might be to read one of these books to completion.

            I've found with goals like this that adding a next action like reading a chapter of a book is getting a bit too... well... anal. Instead what I do is allocate a certain time period each day to reading. So your next action might be to block off such a time period every day or every week to read your book.

            Comment


            • #7
              Steve,

              This one's another great post... where have you been hiding out all of this time ?

              It seems like you've really got a handle on your "system", and you've made it work effectively for you. I took a look at your website, and I really like the way that you set up the "Core Company Values" for your organization. Do you go about setting up your personal values in the same way (looks like it's by functional area)? Do you think that you could give some examples of how you've set this up for yourself? I think that it would be really helpful for those of us who are still struggling with this area.

              Thanks,

              Jim

              Comment


              • #8
                Steve,

                I really like your take on goals. Goals have always seemed so elusive to me, so I have pretty much avoided goals as much as possible. I handle things better at the runway level than the 50,000 feet "pie in the sky" level. Your idea to make goals truly measurable makes it easier to grasp. Thanks!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jkgrossi
                  This one's another great post... where have you been hiding out all of this time ?

                  It seems like you've really got a handle on your "system", and you've made it work effectively for you. I took a look at your website, and I really like the way that you set up the "Core Company Values" for your organization. Do you go about setting up your personal values in the same way (looks like it's by functional area)? Do you think that you could give some examples of how you've set this up for yourself? I think that it would be really helpful for those of us who are still struggling with this area.
                  I just found these forums a few days ago after reading David Allen's Ready for Anything. I jumped on that book when I first saw it (and then the salesperson made me buy it, since that particular bookstore frowns upon book-jumping). I also read GTD when it first came out.

                  I use the mission statement approach for running my business in the same manner I use it personally. The business derives new goals and projects from its mission, just as I derive new personal goals and projects from my mission. I think most businesses that have a mission statement just post it on a wall to look at but never actually live it by setting goals to fulfill it, and that's a shame, since it takes a lot of work to make a good one. Whenever I have to make a tough business decision, I always go back to the mission statement for guidance.

                  My business is developing and publishing PC games, most being nonviolent logic puzzle games. I've been doing this since 1994. I also run a popular forum on the web site, which includes a subforum called Indie Life, which is about self-help topics for people who run businesses similar to mine. Plus I've written lots of free articles at www.dexterity.com/articles. A few years ago I served as Vice President and then President of the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP), a nonprofit organization for software developers. Most independent game developers will have crossed paths with me at some point.

                  As for the core values in the business mission statement, I also do the same thing for my personal mission, except that I put it with my goals instead of my mission, so I see it more frequently. Here are the core values for the business:

                  Products: fun, creativity, elegance
                  People: honor, growth, commitment
                  Systems: intelligence, effectiveness, flexibility
                  Customers: cheerfulness, empathy, gratitude
                  Developers: respect, encouragement, synergy
                  Management: focus, passion, leadership
                  Finances: abundance, growth, contribution

                  This covers the major areas of the business. So when I'm considering a new project, I can think about how well it fulfills these values across the different areas of the business.

                  You can do the same thing for personal values, except that you use different areas of focus. For instance, Career/Business as a personal area of focus for me has these values: efficiency, profitability, happiness, relaxation, creativity. The values are already encapsulated in the mission statement to some degree, but pulling them out and putting them on the goals page makes it easier for me to see how closely my goals match up with my core values. It also helps me get ideas for new goals, and it lets me take a pulse to see how I'm doing at fulfilling different values. For instance, I might ask myself, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how well is my business doing in terms of generating financial abundance?" When I do this for every value, I can quickly identify the weakest areas and then add new projects to improve them.

                  One book I'd like to recommend that really complements the GTD system nicely is Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I read it just before GTD. Julie Morgenstern is to organizing your space as David Allen is to organizing your projects, actions, and ideas. Thanks to Julie my office has been impeccably neat and organized for years now, and I never have a problem with clutter. There's some overlap between these two authors, but not very much. The process you go through with organizing your space is very similar to the way you organize your tasks. It takes a 1-2 day period of concentrated focus where you sort and purge everything. Then you apply the system and fit everything into it. And finally, you maintain it. I used these two systems together synergistically; they complement each other beautifully. Julie also wrote a book about Time Management, which is pretty good, but it's mostly a rehashing of previous time management ideas. Her organizing book is superb, however.

                  Hope this helps....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Steve Pavlina
                    Hmmm... First off, with the definition of "goal" that I use, "becoming more spiritual" isn't a goal. The main reason is that it isn't measurable. You can't say with any certainty whether or not you've achieved it. I like to have goals that are measurable, such that an outside observer could tell with with total binary (yes/no) certainty whether or not the goal has been achieved.
                    Which is exactly why I don't use goals in my life anymore.

                    OK, I exaggerate slightly, but I'm pretty soured on the whole concept of a goal (ie, something that is measurable but currently slightly beyond current status). I don't live life in binary terms; making goals in my life seems so artificial.

                    There's surely a place for goals. At work, I have a goal to finish my process update by November 14. I even have goals at home, like to have the bathroom finished by November 8 (when company's coming over!). But I realized that I needed a new mindset when I struggled with how to make a goal out of "Spend more time with the kids".

                    How do I make a goal out of that, without objectifying my children, and hence working against the goal itself? In regards to the original poster's comment: you really can't make a "goal" regarding spirituality.

                    As I turned my focus toward an outcome, instead of a goal, I was able to make decisions that, in my case, enhanced my relationship with my children. In this case, the outcome is a non-measurable state of being (or state of relationship, rather). When I decided I wanted "Stronger ties with each child individually" as an outcome, everything fell into place.

                    So I have an outcome regarding the kids, but goals at work. The difference might be simply semantic to many, but it made a positive difference in my ability to accomplish the stuff I needed to.

                    I do strongly support creating tasks to back up these state-outcomes (like daily reading, in this discussion), whether on the calendar or on a list. I use both: depending on the task. If it's regularly repeating, I put it on my calendar (almost always as an untimed event on my Palm. The only things that get times are specific appointments that can't be missed). Otherwise, it goes on the list corresponding to the appropriate context (for reading, either @home or @anywhere).

                    A static list of daily-repeating tasks (which include scriptural reading personally, as well as exercise and some other stuff) go on a checklist. Originally this was in HandyShopper2, but the list was short and I rarely clicked over the HS2 to look at it. So it's now taped to the inside cover of my Palm, so I see this list every time I use it.

                    I'm slightly embarrassed to have a self-reminder to exercise and check my calendar taped where I'll see it, but I'm more comfortable being embarrassed than falling-through on an agreement, whether with myself or with another person.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I used to have the same feelings about goals, Terceiro. I felt like they were too rigid and inflexible, and I wanted to have more open-ended objectives that couldn't really be measured, like becoming a better parent (I have two kids).

                      But after living with that mentality for a few years, I found it wasn't getting me where I wanted to go. I would even write these "goals" down and look for opportunities to fulfill them. Occasionally I'd encounter a bout of positive syncronicity which would move them forward a bit. But in the long run, I wasn't making much real progress. I was only going in starts and fits, but there was no consistency. My diet would get a little better, and then I'd slip back again. My marriage would improve and then decline. Trying to "be more healthy" or "be a better husband" just wasn't getting me anywhere. I think the reason is that these kinds of objectives only work if you stay constantly aware of them. But I always lose that awareness at some time. And it's too easy to cheat. How much damage does one piece of junk food do to my objective of being healthy? Can I ignore my wife's needs for a day and still be a good husband? The lines are very fuzzy, and thus it's very easy to fall into a negative tailspin so gradually that you can't see it happening. Suddenly I find myself 20 pounds overweight, but nowhere was it clear where I crossed the line from healthy to unhealthy, since my standards in that area were never clear and measurable.

                      So I solved this problem by bumping those amorphous objectives up to the level of my mission statement, and I made sure all my goals were concrete and measurable. Being healthy and spiritual is part of my mission, but now I demand of myself that I come up with concrete goals, projects, and actions to objectify that... to physically manifest it in my reality. Otherwise, these remain only thoughts and dreams, never really manifest except by chance and luck.

                      So I turned the objective of "being healthy" into measurable dietary improvements. I pushed myself to define what "healthy" meant to me. What would I have to be, think, and do in order to fulfill my mission in this area? This lead me to get off my butt and get moving. I trained in martial arts, worked with a personal trainer for over a year, ran the L.A. marathon, went vegetarian and then vegan, and so on. All these have been the result of setting measurable, specific goals. And I maintain them with clear, simple rules that I never, ever break. For instance, if something comes from an animal, I don't put it in my body.

                      Often there are many possible goals that can satisfy a general objective like being more healthy. So this gives you the opportunity to be creative. Often what I'll do is ask myself, "What would be an example of a group of measurable goals, such that if I achieved them, I would automatically achieve the larger objective?" For instance, if I completed the IronMan Triathlon, that would be sufficient for me to believe I'd satisfied my objective of being healthy. If so, then that might be a goal to consider. Of course, I think that's more health than I need right now.

                      Similarly, I ask myself that same question in other areas. What would it take for me to consider myself a good parent? For me to be think of myself as wealthy and surrounded by abundance? For me to have an outstanding marriage? For me to be more successful? For me to be happier?

                      By achieving the concrete, measurable goals, I guarantee that I achieve the larger ultimate objective. Today I feel very healthy, very spiritual, and very happy. But I got there by focusing on down-to-earth, measurable goals.

                      If you've been able to get great results from using the opposite approach, I'd love to hear how it's worked for you. I had too much trouble grasping something abstract objectives and making them a part of my life, so I found that I needed to make things more concrete in order to make real progress. But everyone is different, so I don't doubt that a different approach might work better for someone else.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the very good posts. they help me imensely, and i can't believe i didn't make the coneection between projects/NAs and goals/projects on my own. that was a BFO if i ever had one.


                        thanks!!!!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Steve,

                          I think we're talking a matter of degree rather than a completely different approach. And, I suppose there's a difference of terminology

                          One difficulty I have is regarding to the whole "mission statement" thing. I've tried a number of times to come up with something that I felt I could look at straight in the eye and and say, "yeah, that's what I'm all about." It always felt so contrived and artificial. And incomplete. Maybe I wasn't giving it enough time, or enough thought, or enough heart. Whatever, it just never worked. Anything I came up with was soon enough put aside and (willfully) forgotten.

                          So I have roles, projects and goals, and tasks. I resolve the vagueness of my non-specific outcomes (those which are sates of being) by being sure, in GTD fashion, that I have a specific action associated with each one. As long as I am sure that I don't leave any project untasked, I haven't felt any major slippage, so to speak.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by terceiro
                            One difficulty I have is regarding to the whole "mission statement" thing. I've tried a number of times to come up with something that I felt I could look at straight in the eye and and say, "yeah, that's what I'm all about." It always felt so contrived and artificial. And incomplete. Maybe I wasn't giving it enough time, or enough thought, or enough heart. Whatever, it just never worked.
                            Tercerio,

                            I have the exact same issue with "Mission Statements" as you do. I've also tried a number of times to come up with one, only to walk away every single time feeling like the "Statement" was artificial and incomplete.

                            I definitely see the value in having one, though. At times, I definintely feel like I'm drifting down the stream without my oars in the watter, much less any idea of where I'm headed.

                            Now that I think about it, I'm not really sure if the ideal "Mission Statement" should be about me as I am now, or how I would like to be in the future. I'm leaning toward the latter because it's "workable", and I would be able to derive my goals from it. As I make progress with my goals, Im continually move closer toward the "ideal me".

                            Thanks,

                            Jim

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Coming up with a good mission statement is tough indeed. I first started having a mission statement about 10 years ago, but for most of that time, I never really found one that stuck or that represented my objectives well enough. I experimented a lot with different mission statement formats and went through various exercises to craft a good one. I know there's a lengthy process in one of Steve Covey's books to do this. But the results never really seemed quite right to me. I'd read the mission statement I came up with and think, "Hmmm... this doesn't seem particularly inspiring."

                              So I experimented with different formats. Eventually I decided to think about my mission in terms of my areas of focus. What was my physical mission, my business mission, my personal growth mission, my relationship mission, etc.? What direction did I want to take in each of these areas? Where did I want to end up? And similarly, what would be "off course" for me? I wrote a paragraph about each area.

                              Then I jazzed up the mission statement by making it more intense. I bolded and capitalized keywords in each section. I replaced words like "good" or "great" with "EXTRAORDINARY" or "OUTSTANDING." I pushed myself to adopt very high standards in each area, such that I would be constantly challenged. I would replace a sentence like, "I am confident and believe in myself," with one like, "Fear lies dead at my feet, and I surge with COURAGE and CONFIDENCE!"

                              Then when I had these mini-missions for each area of focus, I put them all together and added a couple more paragraphs than encapsulated and expanded them.

                              And for me this approach worked. Today my mission statement is 11 paragraphs long (about 1.7 pages). Whenever I read it, I think, "Yes! This is why I'm here." And it does inspire me. I really can't read it all the way through without feeling a surge of positive emotions and a boost in motivation.

                              I really think mission statements can be beneficial, but my guess is that most people just don't take them far enough. You need to get creative with the format and experiment to see what works best for you. For instance, you could write a mission statement as a letter from your future self (or your future spouse) 50 years hence, telling you how you lived. You could print it out on yellow paper and decorate it with pictures of your goals. Make your mission statement a unique expression of who you are, not just a plain vanilla text document sitting in a file somewhere.

                              I probably went through 50-100 versions of my mission statement over the years before I found one that really worked for me. I tweak and revise it periodically, and I find that it does a great job of acting as a compass for me.

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