Lengthen Your Time Horizon

In my last post on Gear Up for Success – Part 2, I included a suggestion that you “Stretch Your Time Horizon.”

As you may remember, I wrote: “… the farther out you are looking, planning, and working, the more likely you’ll find the right way to set things up and do the work needed to produce the results you seek.”

“What’s more,” I continued, “by stretching your time horizon to look, plan, and work for results in a more distant future, you give yourself more time to make course corrections and repair any problems that come up along the way.”

I received a lot of thanks from readers for including this suggestion, along with a lot of requests for more details on how to do it.

In response to those requests, here are a few tips on how to lengthen your time horizon:

Set Suitable Goals

The simple, first step in lengthening your time horizon is to expand your focus from the here-and-now, and look farther out toward a more distant future. Doing so makes it possible for you to identify one or more longer-term goals.

This isn’t as easy as just giving yourself more time to accomplish something you’re already aiming to do. Some of the differences between shorter-term and longer-term goals include:

  • Larger, more difficult accomplishments. If you’re allowing a year or more to accomplish a goal, for example, it ought to be more expansive than something you can do in a week or a month.
  • Closer ties to your passions and/or values. If you’re going to work toward a goal over an extended period of time, it ought to be something you care about so deeply that you won’t change your mind about going for it, or become discouraged when you’re only part-way there.
  • Tangible or objective. It’s hard to be sure when you’ve “become a better person.” But anyone – including yourself – can know for sure when you’ve “become a licensed Realtor.” Public and objective criteria make your longer-term goal a larger, clearer target to hit.
  • Full of milestones. Accomplishing a large and important goal is much easier when you can break it down into smaller, practical steps you can mark “done” as you complete them.

Allocate Your Time

Accomplishing longer-term goals requires enough self-discipline to keep working steadily, regularly, methodically according to a sensible strategy and a comprehensive plan. This boils down to “seat time,” or the simple act of putting in as many hours as you need to reach each and every milestone along the road to your longer-term goal.

Allocating your time is a two-pronged effort: Putting more time toward tasks that lead toward your goal, and also putting less time toward tasks that lead elsewhere, or nowhere.

Here’s where perseverance also contributes to success at reaching longer-term goals, because they necessarily require that you properly allocate your time not just during a week or a month, but during a whole year or a decade.

Getting halfway to your goal – while often valuable – is in many cases far less satisfactory and effective than persevering long enough to get all the way there.

Reward Progress

With your longer-term goal broken into smaller, practical steps, you’re perfectly set up to reward yourself as you make incremental progress.

These interim rewards – which can be anything, such as taking a day off, gifting yourself with something you value, or simply appreciating what you’ve recently learned or experienced by working toward your longer-term goal – help to build and maintain a positive outlook, as well as fuel your drive to overcome setbacks and obstacles.

Strengthen Your “Inner Self”

With one or more suitable goals in front of you, it’s useful to strengthen personal characteristics that will help to carry you toward them.

One of the most important is control over your emotions and impulses. You want to prevent unnecessary discouragement, which will sap your resolve to hit your target. You also want to keep your efforts directed toward your goals, rather than allow distractions by less important matters.

It’s also helpful to develop relevant habits that will speed your progress toward your longer-term goals. For example, you might decide to wake up a little earlier each day so you have more time to prepare for action toward your goal, or you might begin to study and learn new skills you believe will be important in getting where you want to go.

I hope this expanded discussion of how to lengthen your time horizon will help you make progress toward your own definition of success. Feel free to let me know how well it works for you, and whatever other information I can offer to further your level of productivity and success.

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