I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.Venus Williams
Everything was organized: the location, ceremony, food, drinks, animation, decoration and staff. Invitations had been sent. It was all going well.
We started discussing tables with my family. A simple matter on paper. That’s when it started to fall apart. We kept rearranging everyone, but there was always one person that no one wanted to sit with. Like the rude and awkward uncle.
At a point when we were so happy to be done with everything, the last hurdle turned out to be a real pain. We had arguments and it started to eat at our motivation. How could we get everyone to fit in?
Planning for a wedding is a long endeavor. It requires motivation. Fortunately, most of the time, the couple is motivated enough to pull it through and get married. Focus is essential. Everything has to be planned, all the surprises and annoying details have to be dealt with.
This experience taught me that focus and motivation are essential to get what you desire in life and reach your goals. Here are 3 important steps that keep me motivated and focused.
1. Plan daily
Planning is the first one. But it goes further. To stay focused, you need to know exactly what you have to do and when to do it on a daily basis. That means planning activities first, then executing on the plan.
I found that writing down day by day activities in a weekly plan works well. Next to each task I add the time needed to complete the task. For more help on writing a weekly plan, you can follow the steps explained here.
That way I can make sure no day is overloaded with an excessive amount of tasks, so I can stay focused and not feel overwhelmed. The added benefit is a feeling of achievement at the end of the day as I cross out tasks and see progress immediately.
When I’m done, I can either completely relax for the remainder of the day or work on less important tasks, like writing and answering some extra emails.
But how do you deal with unplanned tasks? This brings us to the next point.
2. Set your own agenda
Being pretty ruthless is the price I have to pay to stay focused and follow the plan. That means not letting others dictate my agenda. Understanding this has been a real eye opener for me and has made a huge difference in my life.
In the past, I would have tried to please everyone and added all their requests to my agenda. Also I would have carried them out straight away if they told me it was urgent. This is what crippled us when we were organizing our wedding.
Now I still take note of new requests, but put them in the bucket “to do when all the planned tasks are done”. Then, if I have time at the end of any day of the week, I will work on these new tasks. If not, they will be addressed and planned accordingly in my next weekly planning.
The exception is when a new task takes less than 2 minutes: in that case I might do it straight away if I judge it is important enough.
Just to be clear, not letting others set your agenda will create conflicts. In fact, it does sometimes create tensions with my wife. It created tension with my family. That means on occasions, I might let unplanned items come in the middle of my plan. The result is a loss of focus. However, I still do my best to maximize my focused time.
Also setting my own agenda doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything for others. I do. The difference is: I do it in my own time. Either it is planned in advance and executed on or it gets done during my free time.
That way, I can stay fully focused on the important tasks, that have been planned thoughtfully during the weekly plan. Doing tasks that have not been thoroughly reviewed in the heat of the moment is a great way to kill your focus. And to get you depressed at the end of the day, when you realize that you have not executed on your plan.
In summary: I set my agenda in advance, execute on it and don’t let others set it for me. I wished I had known that 5 years ago.
3. Set a date and let the world know
A wedding takes place at the set date because that date can’t be moved. Everyone knows about it and is invited. The venue is booked. Suppliers are booked. The strong commitment it entices means the couple will get it done in time. Even if the end result is not all they had envisaged at the beginning (shortcuts will have to be taken), it will get done.
The lesson is that strict dates are a big part of a successful plan. Shifting dates not only will kill your motivation as nothing gets done but is just pushed back, but also causes a loss of focus. When you have a strict deadline, you will start cutting all the unnecessary extras and focus on the essentials. Forget about tasting another 30 wines. Forget about tasting 3 different menus. Make a decision, save time and money and get it done.
Parkinson’s law states that a task will swell in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. Bottom line: keep it simple with short deadlines.
Setting strict (even if sometimes unrealistic) deadlines is key to stay focused and to avoid procrastination. This is often missing in planning and causes unnecessary overhead.
In the end, my fiancee and I decided were each member of the family was going to sit and that was the end of it. Once decided, it was a big relief. That meant we could then enjoy our wedding.
We were focused on a plan and we didn’t let others set our agenda.