We all have our own set of goals we want to achieve. Goals we have been working on for months, years and maybe even more. Goals that we keep chipping away at but are not able to make the necessary dent in, to make an impact and complete them.
Despite all our late nights, early mornings and weekends of working in the perfect place, the precious timebox or updating our checklists – we simply cannot achieve the goals in front of us.
Are we not good enough?
Is our goal completely unrealistic?
Are we not sure what it is we are actually trying to do?
Perhaps. Maybe, it’s a combination of all of these put together and everything around us that keeps distracting us from our purpose, reducing our focus to the point where we can’t generate the internal focus and drive to accomplish what we want.
All those Notifications
If you want to hit the low hanging fruit – start here. We are bombarded, BOMBARDED, with notifications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Years ago, when my computer prompted me for updates, I would get notified of them and later walk away – letting it update in peace and quiet. Now, I get them weekly to my phone, update this OS, download this app – constantly staring me in the face asking me to click update, constantly reminding me. Add to that mix all the emails and social media notifications and the buzzing gets even louder. Sure “some” of it is important but when you are trying to focus on the task at hand, you don’t need that email from work or friend request coming in. You need to eliminate that distraction to the point where it cannot be easily overridden.
When I’m working on one of my important goals, I turn off my phone and throw it across the room. The throwing (perhaps, gentle placement is more realistic) is an important act. The goal is for it not to be in arms reach and if I feel the urge to check, I find myself feeling that pang of guilt of actually, consciously, making the decision to walk across the room to pick up my phone.
On the web, I’ve played with a few applications and have found Strict Workflow to be the best tool to help here. Strict Workflow is a Chrome extension that blocks your access through your Chrome browser based on a timer. When the timer is active you can’t access those sites, when you are on break you can. The only way to override the change once it is active is to uninstall the extension.
Uninstalling the extension is akin to walking across the room to pick up my phone. If I were to uninstall the program while it was active, I would feel that pang of guilt again asking me, questioning me whether going onto Facebook was worth not achieving my goal. And the internal follow-up question to that? Do you really not have 30 minutes to spend on this goal?
And I would figuratively hang my head in shame and mumble to myself – yes I do – and get back to it.
Guilt isn’t the greatest emotion in the world, but when it is used to get you back to what you need to be doing, it can be quite effective.
You are doing too much
Even after you’ve taken away all those distractions, you might start to find something still holding you back. It might be a subtle hold, perhaps more akin to a tug at your heart, it will come and go but will always be there… nagging you… pulling you down… holding you back… distracting you from your real purpose.
What is it? One of your goals, maybe all of them? Perhaps you have too much on the go?
This is the hard choice that many people struggle with, as we want to accomplish so much in our lives. But we need to make hard choices to move forward in life and this sometimes involves dropping the goals that are holding us back. These are the secondary goals on our plate that we simply aren’t going to achieve. I recently had to make this decision. I had a couple of technical blogs that were languishing. I had not been writing in one of them for a year. Every few weeks I would remind myself of this fact to the point where it would become this 30 – 45 min conversation about how I could do it, what would I write about, where would I find the time, etc., etc., but then never do anything.
So, I removed the distractions.
I deleted both blogs about 3 weeks ago. I could have kept them up and running for the next 6 months, but I chose to take them down immediately. Out of mind, out of sight. At first, I was sad, feeling as though I had failed. But a week later, those distractions were no longer consuming me, I didn’t think about them anymore and my time, energy, and focus were directed towards where it needed to be – on the goals I really wanted to focus on.
The Duality of Opportunities
Isn’t it a great feeling when someone you don’t know has seen your work and says – “Hey, saw your work, can we have lunch or would you be able to help on this project or can you do this presentation with us, etc., etc.” – so many great feelings start to churn through you at that point in time. I love that feeling, it’s a feeling of validation and acceptance in all that you are doing and gives you such an incredible push. But like any sword, opportunities also have a double-edge to them. Sure, it’s great to be acknowledged, but if that project is too big, not in line with where you want to be focusing your time or simply too big of an undertaking – walk away.
Taking control of your distractions involves making tough decisions. You can’t do it all, no matter how hard you try, you can’t. So sometimes we have to be picky with what we choose to do and the opportunities we take. You don’t have to be rude about it, but you do have, to be honest with yourself about it.
Pick the opportunities which are most aligned to your goals, toss the rest.
There are some uncomfortable feelings here – frustration, guilt, forced loss – that you need to deal with when taking control of your distractions. The answers are not always easy and can involve some deep soul-searching on what you truly want to accomplish.
Deleting all the games and unnecessary apps from your phone, that’s easy, but turning down opportunities or generating that feeling of guilt when start to waiver are feelings we don’t generally lean towards. If you are serious about achieving your goals – not only achieving but surpassing them – then you need to take control of what is holding you back.
Because if you don’t, if you let them run rampant when you do realize it’ll be too late and you’ll know, in a heartbeat, that the feelings you have at that point in time (of not having met your goals) are infinitely worse than what you would have felt if had taken control of them from the beginning.
This article was written by Greg Thomas, who is the CEO and founder of BetaRover, dedicated to transforming the leadership and culture of software organizations for future growth.
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