Stay on Target and Conquer Your Goals

Gold Five will live forever.

I can’t count how many times I’ve quoted Star Wars, particularly sound bites toward the end of Episode IV when the Rebels are attacking the Death Star. Their goal was to maneuver through a narrow trench and fire torpedoes into the exhaust port. Sounds easy, right? No, the exhaust port was the size of a sewage hole. Beside that, they were flying fast and dodging unwanted enemy fire.

Gold Leader gets in a jam and can’t maneuver. Gold Five urges him, “Stay on target.” Gold Leader, “We’re too close!” He’s panicking. Gold Five again, “Stay on target.” Leader, this time shouting, “Loosen up!” I wanted Gold Five to keep at it, “Stay on target,” but it was over. He didn’t say much more before crashing.

Sometimes, we need some help to stay on target. Not the backseat X-Wing driver kind of help, but practical methods to assist us in conquering our goals. Distractions come in many forms: phone dings, email burps, Facebook notifications, some guy hollering down the hall, TIE fighters. These things cry out for our attention and time. They tempt us to get off target.

If you’re human, you have multiple responsibilities requiring your attention and effort. These are healthy parts of life. If you only had one, you would live on a distant planet somewhere, and even then you might have to creatively find food while fighting off reptilian sleens. Having too many responsibilities is not our problem (although that may be an issue). It’s handling so many of them at once. We need to prioritize.

In his popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes what many have come to refer to as a Time Management Grid (more on that here). It is the practical way to stay on target.

All the tasks you perform in a given day can be effectively categorized in one of four different buckets. These buckets indicate the level of urgency and priority for you to consider. Certain things are high priority and others are not. The grid helps you find value in tasks and enables you to make the right choices in getting things done. It helps you stay on target.

time-management-grid

Here’s the way it works. And again, you are trying to prioritize tasks so that you get the right things done first. Ask yourself only two questions for each task:

  1. Is this urgent or not?
  2. Is this important or not?

Think quickly and be reasonable — not everything is important. I know that’s what you were thinking. Based on your response, find the bucket that matches and put your task there. (You can do it in your head.) If your house catches on fire, it should be important and urgent. So it goes in bucket #1. In fact, you might want to leave now and take care of that. If you just got a friend request on Facebook, it should go in bucket #4 because it is not urgent or important. Exercise is critical to your well-being, so it is important. However, it is not urgent. So it goes in bucket #3. Finally, things like phone calls are often considered urgent but not important.

Now that you know in which bucket a task is filed, here’s how to connect your time to your tasks:

  • Bucket #1 (Urgent/Important) — These are tasks you didn’t anticipate or plan, but need to complete immediately. You have no choice but to stop and do them.
  • Bucket #2 (Not Urgent/Important) — These are your goals and chunks. They are your target and you need to stay on them. They were likely planned in your schedule already. Make sure you get these done on time.
  • Bucket #3 (Urgent/Not Important) — Try and minimize these tasks if you can’t eliminate them altogether. Maybe you can delegate them to someone else. They shouldn’t take up your time.
  • Bucket #3 (Not Urgent/Not Important) —These are your time suckers. They have no value. Do them when you have downtime or don’t do them at all.

Try your best to spend most of your time in Bucket #2 (Not Urgent/Important). Then, you will be getting things done and conquering your goals. And … you’ll make Gold Five happy. He deserves it, doesn’t he?

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