How often have you gotten to the end of a day and thought, “Did I do anything meaningful today?” My guess is, more often than you care to admit.
It happens to all of us. Once the day starts, we get hit from every angle. Email. Phone calls. Meetings. Responsibilities. Family. Follow-up calls. Client/customer work. Strategic planning. Cash flow issues. Vendors. Referrals. Networking meetings. Etc. The list is endless.
You know you’re busy. You’re not wasting your time playing video games or catching up on a fantasy sports league. You’re working. You’re checking off boxes. You’re making things happen. But still you often feel like you’re not making progress. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Well, the good news is that the answer to your dilemma isn’t that far away. In fact, human beings have wrestled with this question for several millennia now and one of the best answers to your problem was voiced by one of the greatest philosophers of all-time, Socrates.
Wrestling with the question of accomplishment/achievement/success, he simply said.
“If you want to reach Mount Olympus, make sure every step you take is in that direction.”
In other words, once you’ve defined a goal, make sure that you don’t get off track. Make sure that you don’t let other people or circumstances derail your journey. Stay focused on the goal and make sure that every step you take is in the direction of that goal. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet we all break it every day.
As I’ve been contemplating Socrates’ statement (I’m currently reading an old book entitled, “The Trial of Socrates”), I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two questions that if you and I asked them on a consistent daily basis would allow us to feel more accomplished each day and would allow us to achieve our goals faster.
So, what are those two questions? I’m glad you asked. Here they are.
1. What Do I Need to Do Today To Move Me Closer to My Goal of _________?
Note: If you do your daily planning the night before (which is a great idea), simply change the word “today” to “tomorrow” (i.e. “What do I need to do tomorrow to move me closer to ___________?”).
Of course, this question presupposes that you’ve clearly defined what your primary goal is (or goals are). If you haven’t, that should be your starting place. In fact, my last post on creating your 100 day plan might be a great place to start.
Once you’ve clearly defined your end point (your Mount Olympus), you need to ruthlessly commit to taking DAILY action toward that goal. Using David Allen’s great question, “What’s the next action?” make your list. For example, if your big goal this quarter is to launch a new product, your next action probably isn’t “Launch new product.” It’s more likely something closer to, “Review customer feedback” from the past few months to discover a big enough problem to solve. Or it might be, “Find money in the budget to fund new product launch.” Or, “Decide on new product team.”
Then once you have that action written down, the next key is to actually schedule it into your day BEFORE “everyone” else steals your day. So, “8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. put together new product team.”
As a business owner/entrepreneur, you have to take control of your schedule. The concept that we’re discussing today isn’t a difficult one to comprehend, it’s the application that’s difficult. That’s why so many business owners and entrepreneurs get to the end of their day and feel they didn’t “accomplish anything.” It’s not that they weren’t busy, it’s that they didn’t make progress on the most important thing that they needed to work on for that day.
So, whenever you plan your day (whether it’s the evening before or the morning of) make sure you review your key goal for the quarter/year and ask, “What do I need to work on today (or tomorrow) to move me closer to __________?” Then once you know the next action that will keep you moving in the direction of your Mount Olympus, make sure you schedule it before anyone else steals your day.
This question/concept is pretty simple. But, then again, simple isn’t simplistic, nor is it easy. Following through on this one question/tactic will be a daily struggle.
2. Is What I’m Doing Right Now Moving Me Toward or Away From My Goal of ____________?”
Of the two questions, this may be the more powerful of the two. Can you imagine the kind of difference it could make in your business if throughout the course of the day you were frequently asking yourself this question. “Is what I’m doing right now helping me reach my goal or not?”
- Is responding to this email moving me toward my goal or not?
- Is attending this meeting moving me toward my goal or not?
- Is working on this project moving me toward my goal or not?
- Is writing this blog post (or letter or report, etc.) moving me toward my goal or not?
- Is reading ESPN® moving me toward my goal or not?
- Is doing this research moving me toward my goal or not?
- Is playing Angry Birds® moving me toward my goal or not?
Can you imagine the impact of asking this question, every day, all day long, “Is what I’m doing right now taking me straight to Mt. Olympus or is it taking me off course?”
By the way, this question works well in all areas of your life. For example, I’ve recently set some new goals for playing tennis. Using this question, as I’m reaching for something to eat I find myself asking, “Is what I’m about to eat taking me toward my goal or not?” Or when I’m getting ready to work out and I have the choice between riding on a bike, running on a treadmill or sprinting between cones, when I ask this question, the answer becomes obvious (sprints).
Likewise, if your goal this quarter is to spend more time at home because your spouse and kids need more time from you (i.e. you have a tendency to work too many hours and that’s negatively affected your relationship with your family), if you ask this question at dinner time, “Is what I’m doing right now taking me toward my goal of more quality family time and dinners or not?” you’ll find this question will keep you on track.
I can’t overstate the power of this one simple question. Socrates was right on the money with this one!
So, if you want to turn this year around and make sure you feel like you’re actually accomplishing something meaningful each and every day, make sure you cultivate the habit of asking these two questions every day (and the second one, multiple times throughout the day)
- What do I need to do today to move me closer to my goal of ____________?
- Is what I’m doing right now moving me toward or away from my goal of ___________?
Remember, “If you want to reach Mount Olympus, make sure every step you take is in that direction.”
To your accelerated success!
Key question: If you asked these two questions everyday, how do you think you’d be a better business owner and/or entrepreneur? Post your answer below in the comments section (or if you’re reading this by RSS feed or email, click here >> to post your comments).
Flickr image by Lee Salford