When the American West was settled, whoever got there first established a claim on the land. It was theirs. They got to say how it was used.
Your time follows this same law of homesteading. Whatever gets put on our calendar first becomes the defacto standard for what we’re “supposed” to be doing with that time.
This is why it’s important to put your priorities on the calendar first. We commonly think of this when we’re scheduling our day or our week, simply because that’s the kind of scheduling we most commonly do.
Scheduling your year can have an even more profound effect.
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My wife and I are methodically working our way through the menu at our favorite pizza place. Some of their creations are better than others, but even the “bad” ones are pretty doggone good.
Each time we order, we order two kinds: a favorite we love and a new one we haven’t tried before. (Yes, we have a checklist.) This way, we’re going to enjoy our meal(s) no matter how the new pizza turns out. If it’s a little less than we were hoping for, we still have a really good pizza to enjoy with it. If it’s absolutely incredible, we have another favorite.
We’re cheating at the explore/exploit problem a little bit, but life doesn’t have to be either-or. It can be and. And this is a good way we’ve found to maximize our pizza enjoyment. We get the benefits of exploiting a favorite pizza while still exploring new pizzas.
Two of our basic human needs are the need for Safety and Security and the need for Variety. Those two needs alone will often pull us in different directions. That’s not a bad thing.
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Every time you get in the car, you have a destination in mind. You’re going to work. You’re taking the kids to school. You’re going to the grocery store, the library, and the dry cleaner’s.
Even if you’re heading out for the sheer joy of hearing your Maserati purr on the open road, you have a specific destination in mind. You’re heading someplace.
Goals shouldn’t be any more intimidating than popping out for a gallon of milk. More exciting, yes. And they’ll probably take a little more planning than grabbing your keys and wallet and heading out the door.
At some point, you need to switch from thinking about the goal to doing something about it. Here’s how to set up OmniFocus to you moving forward.
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There was something I always thought was peculiar about the Franklin Planner form my father would use to help 13-year-old-me set goals.
Right at the top of the page, it asked you an odd question: why do you want to set this goal?
I didn’t want to waste time with touchy-feely stuff like that! I wanted action! I wanted to lay out my grand plan for world domination, break it down, and get to work! Why? Because world domination is awesome!
I wanted to skip the work and let the goal magically happen just because I’d come up with it. You can guess how many times I’ve successfully conquered the world.
Reaching your goals is a process. Once the goal is defined, you’re not done. You still need to track it and follow through on it. Here’s how I track the goals I’m working on with Evernote.
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Have you ever set an alarm for 5:00 am, only to hit snooze five or six times?
Or gone with the loaded french fries instead of the salad because, frankly, they taste better?
Or binged three and a half episodes instead of reading a book, cleaning your desk, and writing in your journal?
There are plenty of ways we rationalize why we deviated from our plan in the moment: “It’s cold and dark outside—I might get sick if I go for a run this morning!” “Just once isn’t going to make a difference.” “I left off at a cliffhanger; I need closure so I can think about something else.”
There can be legitimate reasons for changing tactics in the moment. However, if you’re constantly making excuses for not sticking with your plan, it might be a symptom that you’re making a classic mistake: you’re letting your brain make a decision without getting buy-in from your heart.
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