One young woman I know has a career, a family, and an itch to go back to school. Between all three, she has dozens of “important” projects and activities all clamoring for her attention and interest. Before she can even finish one item, several more are insisting on immediate attention. In fact, she feels herself to be so “busy” she cannot allow herself to become fully immersed even in her favorite projects. If she did, she might pay “too much” attention to one and have to shortchange another.
Her days are madhouse encounters, a constant stream of commitments and activities all requiring action, like trying to fit twenty‑five square pegs into fifteen round holes. She pays absolutely no attention to her Basic Choice because she feels herself to be at the mercy of her tasks. At every free moment, invariably two or three items rear their heads and demand attention.
This brings us into the realm of managing your goals; the fine art of packing every day with just enough of the most useful activities. Too tight, and you’ll lose time and energy to unavoidable distractions, interruptions, and emergencies. Too loose, and you’ll simply waste your skills and abilities. The idea is to have every day – and every project – under your own executive control, and thus be able to make the best choices regarding when to work on each and every item.
Most people find it hard to recognize the “right time” to turn to a particular project or activity. As a result, most people don’t bother managing their own activities. They simply work on whatever catches their interest, until either:
a) Something else catches their interest, or
b) Something or someone else grabs them and pushes them, face first, into a new project or activity.
A pattern like this makes it hard for anyone to achieve what s/he wants. When outside factors have too much control over your days, your own desires go out the window. Until you take back control of your efforts and your energy, your effectiveness will suffer – and so will your hopes and dreams.
To take back that control, you need to know and act on four sets of information:
- The relative importance of each item facing you.
- The amount of time each item will require from you to achieve “optimum” results.
- The amount of time between the present moment and the deadline for completing each item.
- Your current capacities, strengths, and weaknesses.
This may seem like a great deal of unrelated information. But it goes right to the main point of choosing what to do next, and you can keep track of it all quite easily. In fact, keeping track is the simplest part, as you’ll learn in later sections of my book. With practice and experience, you will be sniffing out this information as easily as you can now see the color of every item of clothing in your closet.