Long Term Goals, Short Term Plans

I’ve recently been realizing a powerful perspective shift that has changed the way I schedule.

It’s very simple, and doesn’t require any special tricks to implement. You can do this today using whatever methodology of scheduling you prefer.

The concept is simple:

When planning, view your long term plans as flexible goals, and your short term plans as concrete steps towards those goals.

This simple perspective shift, based on some basic research on how good we are at planning, could change the way you work forever.

The science: We are terrible at planning, for the most part.

When it comes to planning, humans are pretty awful. We estimate quite incorrectly. This only compounds when we’re trying to estimate something larger. Setting singular concrete goals in the distant future, then, locks you into a scenario where you are likely to fail. Instead, shift your mindset to that of a fluid goal projection. This simply means that as you progress towards your goal, the endpoint may move closer or further away.

This may sound frustrating to you. After all, we are sold an opposite message constantly: “In 90 days, your body will be fitter than ever!”

While a certain 90 day fitness program would very likely have a strong effect on your overall fitness level, the reality is that no one, not even you, can predict what will happen to your fitness in the next 90 days.


What do you control? What can you plan?

The short answer: today.

The longer answer: you only have the option of choosing, moment by moment, to do something that moves you towards your goals. You could do some math to estimate a large stack of those moments, but again — we have proven to ourselves that we are generally quite bad at estimating.

When setting goals, consider when you would like to have something complete by, and pursue estimation as a planning tool to determine a trajectory.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s “presence.”

Be where you are, doing what you are doing, on purpose.

In his book The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday discusses the idea of never being “in a hurry.” If you are taking steps towards your goals every day, and putting the proper amount of energy towards what you want to accomplish, there is never a reason to feel anxiety. There is never a reason to rush. There is nothing you can do that is more than what you can do.

For some, this may be a bit of a buzzkill, because we like to think that we can be superhuman. We like to think that the mysterious, gritty world of “busting it” or “hustling” is where we win.

And there’s something to be said for extra bursts of energy. The late nights, the weekend hacking sessions, the adrenaline fueled creative epiphanies — those rich moments that act as tipping points. But those mysterious bursts of energy can’t be engineered.

Those who make the most impact often do it piece by piece, day by day. Sustainable progress. And, sustainable progress isn’t made by worrying about the future.

It’s about focusing on doing what is right and necessary, and what will advance your goals today, right now.

Originally published at whiteboard.is.