Work in Serial
Here’s a list of things I tried to do in 2015. Try to guess how many I accomplished:
- Qualify for the American Open (Weightlifting)
- Improve my conversational skills
- Learn photography and take photos every day
- Establish a lasting meditation routine
- Maintain <12% bodyfat
- Rekindle old friendships
- Get an CS Masters degree from GA Tech’s OMSCS
- Kill off my debt and get on the path to early retirement ala (Mr. Money Mustache)[http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/].
- Pare down my clothing to a minimal wardrobe
- Pare down my posessions to only the essentials
- Start writing on a regular basis
- Journal for the whole year
- Attend 6 out-of-state weddings
How many do you think I finished? 4? 5? All of them?
...I managed to attend the weddings.
I was thinking too short term. I wanted to accomplish all of these things, and felt like if I didn’t work on all of them right now I’d never do them. One day I’d obsess for hours over camera specs, and the next I’d research weightlifting programs. Everytime I found something of interest I’d latch onto it, but only for a short time. I was learning a lot but I couldn’t establish any consistency. No consistency, no habit, no real learning.
Focusing on everything meant I could accomplish nothing.
Reduce goal set, focus on ONE thing at a time
The list above looks like way too much. But I actually think that achieving most of those goals in a year in possible! The trick is to focus on one goal at a time. Ignore the other goals for now. In fact, put them on an Avoid-At-All-Cost-List. You’ll have plenty of time to tackle them later, when you have accomplished your one goal.
When focused on one goal, you can accomplish so much more. Distractions get easier to ignore. When focused, being consistent and establishing habits is so much easier.
Take at least a month to focus on one task. I’d suggest 3 months as a better time period for brand new habits. For big projects, a year, or even a decade might be a better time period.
When a practice is so ingrained in you that it becomes part of your identity, you can move on to the next goal. Alternatively, if you are satisfied with the level of proficiency you’ve achieved, you can move on.
It’s still okay to play
Of course you still need to do your day-to-day tasks, don’t skip showering to focus on your goal! It’s still important to take some time and explore new things. And of course, you also need time to relax, be present, and enjoy life.
Working in serial is powerful tool. You have plenty of time to do everything you want to do. Just tackle everything one at a time, instead of all at once.
More on this subject:
- Derek Sivers on Buridan’s Ass
- Minimalism Resources
- Leo Babauta on Sticking to One Thing
- James Clear on Mastering One Thing at a Time