This post is the last part of The nerd guide to lifestyle design: an engineered process to create your inspiring life.
The previous part is here.
One school of thought says you should follow the course of your life. Make the most of what you have and what happens to you. In short: go with the flow and learn to enjoy it.
Another view is to take control of your life. Set your agenda, create your own opportunities and get what you want. You can call that approach: going against the flow.
Picture your life as a game of poker. In one scenario, you make the most of the cards you’ve been dealt with. In the other scenario, you choose the card you want to play with. So, which scenario do you pick if you want to maximize your chances to win the game?
Are you willing to do what it takes to control your agenda and create your own opportunities? Or do you prefer to stay in line and go with the flow?
One thing is clear: it does take commitment and a strong motivation to not get nudged of your path. You have to be brutal to stay on track with your goals. Sometimes, you will upset people close to you.
Are you that type of person? If you think so, please carry on reading. If not, I invite you to read the next two paragraphs and challenge your current view before you make up your mind.
You see, the majority of people stay in line and prefer to follow inspiring leaders. And in a way, we all need inspiring leaders to follow. But it has to stop when you loose control of your agenda and your path in life.
If you’re committed to realize your potential and achieve your goals, you’ve got to set your agenda and stick to it.
Now, are you ready to take the jump? Then, read on.
Start On The Right Foot
First, let’s get in the right frame of mind. I assume you’ve set a detailed day-by-day agenda for yourself. If not, follow the steps in the post here.
Once you’ve got your agenda, every morning, look at your tasks for the day. Make sure you’re clear on your top priority tasks for that day. Mentally commit to do those tasks.
This will hone your focus for the day.
Then, start your day with those tasks. Why?
Because you’ll stand a higher chance to finish your highest priority tasks before someone interrupts you.
Stick To Your Guns
A good head start is important. But it won’t guarantee you’ll stick to your agenda.
In society, do you tend to fit in? Maybe you’ve been told you shouldn’t create any ripple in your life? If that’s the case, you might want to change your perspective and behavior.
When you decide to set your own agenda, you then have to stick to it. You’ve got to stand up and become a leader of your life.
And I’m afraid this comes with a price.
To stay focused and follow your plan, you’ll have to be ruthless. You can’t let others dictate your agenda any more.
This will create conflicts you’ll have to deal with. You won’t please everyone for sure. But this is not what being a leader is about anyway.
Understanding this has been an eye opener for me and has made a real difference in my life.
In the past, I tried to please everyone and added all their requests to my agenda. Also I carried them out straight away if they told me it was urgent. This is how I got derailed.
And let me be clear: at times keeping control of your agenda can become extremely hard. I’ve been through it many times. You get pressure from your boss, your wife and sometimes even your family and friends.
Courage And Confidence
To stand your ground, you need courage and confidence.
The good news is: when you set inspiring goals for yourself, you’ll gather this courage. And once you’ve committed to your plan and started executing on it, you’ll build confidence along the way.
And the more confident you are, the easier it will be to adapt to your new regime.
Now, you might be wondering: why is it so important to stick to your agenda? Is it worth it when you might upset people around you and end up dealing with conflicts?
To understand why it’s so important, let me ask you:
Have you ever been in a meeting where you didn’t follow the agenda? If so, how did you feel at the end of the meeting?
Did you meet the objectives of the meeting? Did it give you confidence that matters where going in the right direction?
Of course, not. You ended up thinking the meeting was a waste of time, right? You might have left the room confused, thinking another, potentially unproductive, meeting would be needed.
Now, if you live your life that way, how are you going to be effective? How can you make progress and be confidence that you’re heading in the right direction?
I’m sure you got the point.
Now that you’re clear that you need to stick to your agenda, let’s have a look at how to deal with new requests.
Here’s a five step process to deal with new tasks.
1. The Power Of No
If you’ve got clear reasons behind your goals, your plan will reflect what counts to you most. Your goals become your compass to make decisions.
So, every time you get a new request and have to make a decision, first take a step back and reflect. To stay in charge, you need perspective.
Ask yourself: is this going to bring me closer or further away from my goals?
For example, if you have to work on an assignment, decide whether it fits with your agenda.
Is it bringing you closer to your goals? Who is setting the agenda here, you or someone else? If it’s not you, do what you have committed to do, nothing more.
This way, you can already get rid of a lot of requests that may nudge you off your path.
In short, you’ve got to learn to say no to people. Practice it. Saying no is hard. We feel we’re letting others down, that we’re selfish.
But here’s a way to make it easier for you. Remember that every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to other things. Once you’re overbooked, you’ll have no time to handle new requests.
Picture your schedule as a cup of tea. Every time you accept a new request, you pour some liquid in. At some point, you won’t be able to put more liquid in without causing the tea to overflow.
So be careful about what you pour into your schedule.
And remember: setting your own agenda doesn’t mean you’re not doing anything for others. You are. The difference is: you systematically assess each request, then you act with purpose, in your own time.
Now, let’s tackle these remaining tasks.
2. The 5 Minutes Rule
First, look at each task. If a new task takes you less than 5 minutes to execute, do
it straight away. This technique comes from the Getting Things Done method. I call it the 5 minutes rule.
Tackling small tasks straight away can reduce your burden a lot.
3. The Unplanned Bucket
Then, how do you deal with any task that makes it through?
What I do is to put these tasks in an unplanned bucket. Then, if I have time at the end of any day of the week, I work on these new tasks. If not, I review and plan them in my next weekly planning.
That way, I can stay focused on the important tasks. Tasks that I’ve planned thoughtfully during the weekly plan.
Doing tasks that have not been 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.
And for sure, I will sometimes let unplanned items come in the middle of my plan. I’m not a machine. But it always results in a loss of focus and efficiency. That’s why I do my best to maximize my focused time.
So, to stay effective, you’ve got to stay focused. You’ve got to execute on your plan. And what happens when you reach hyper focus?
You can enter a state of Flow. Flow is a complete absorption in what you do. It occurs when you’re working on a task for which you’re skilled. It’s a desirable state of high performance.
At the neurophysiological level, flow emerges from a radical alteration in normal brain function. The slower extrinsic system (conscious processing) is swapped out for the far faster subconscious, intrinsic system.
In short, either you’ve planned a task in advance and will execute on or it will get done during your free time. Focus make you efficient and flow makes you hyper efficient.
4. Increase Your Chances Of Reaching Your Goals By 78%
I wrote that sticking to your agenda will bring friction and conflict, that it will be tough for you to stay on track. And it’s true. But don’t despair, I’ve got good news for you.
When you share your plan with others, it becomes easier to be ruthless. I’ll explain.
When you show others why it’s important for you to stick to your plan, they become more understanding. When they see you’re committed to your goals and their impact on your life, they are more willing to wait for unscheduled tasks to be done.
Another benefit: they might feel involved in your plans. Because you’re sharing, they will ask on your progress and they will show interest. At times, they will even support you or hold you accountable.
And a study backs it up. The study showed that your chances to achieve your goals increase by 78% when you:
- Write down your goals
- Then share your goals, action commitments and weekly progress reports to a supportive friend
Sharing your goals will also help you find arrangements when you have to. Many problems can be solved through good communication.
5. Show Off
Now that you’ve learned how to actively defend your agenda, it’s time to deliver. You’ve got to execute on your plan and show you’re effective.
And it’s all about taking action. Once you consistently follow your agenda, you’ll start to see results. And when people see your results, they’ll give you more freedom to follow your agenda.
In a way, they’ll see you’re working on a good cause.
So, your last step it to act on your plan until you reach your goals.
This Is YOUR Agenda
Warren Buffet once said:
You’ve got to keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.
This is spot on.
To sum it up, make sure you:
- Set your agenda in advance
- Share it with others
- Execute on it
- Don’t let others set it for you
Today, how do you keep control of your agenda? And if you’re not in control, what’s the one thing that gets in your way?
Share your methods and insights below.