Outsourcing your memory part III

In the previous parts of this series, we looked at how writing down all your todos can help focus the mind and free it from constantly trying not to forget about all those menial tasks. We also looked at how these todos can then be organised into categories and arranged into lists to help us achieve more with our time.

In this final part, we are going to look at how you can ensure your day-to-day tasks are meaningful by organizing them into projects that move you toward your longer-term goals.

Did you ever spend a whole day taking care of all manner of little tasks, only to look back on them and realize that they didn’t add up to anything meaningful?

If you want to stay true to your professional and personal priorities, you need to avoid this and ensure what you do each day is important. To achieve this, you must do three things.

Firstly you should identify all the responsibilities you have in life to ensure that you live up to them.

Map out all your duties to yourself and to others into a mind-map that branches out into more detailed areas.

A great example of a personal area of responsibility that is often neglected is health. You might mark this on your map and branch it out into sub-points, such as diet, dental care, annual medical checkups & exercise. You don’t necessarily need to be more specific than this – it is enough that you are aware of them.

Secondly to ensure your daily actions are meaningful, group the individual tasks into manageable projects. These projects should move you on towards a tangible goal, we’ll discuss goals shortly, and they should be attainable in under a year.

On a personal level, these could be to learn the basics of Spanish in order to pursue the goal of eventually becoming fully fluent in it.

On the other hand on a professional level, a project could be to hire a marketing person or to set up a new online shop, both of these would be aimed at attaining a bigger goal, say a 10% growth in sales.

Finally, you need to be able to assess your goals. Goals are different from projects in that they are long term & strategic: Goals should be achievable in around one to three years. For example, your long-term goal could be to get out of debt, and this could demand a number of projects, like transferring your credit to a zero percent account, curbing your spending or even moving to a cheaper place.

So far we’ve mainly looked at how you can achieve your personal ambitions, but companies should also define their vision for where they want to go and the principles they’ll maintain en route.

So how can you get your company moving towards where it should be?

The first task is to identify its destination, think about where you see your company going to achieve its greatest success. This will make your direction crystal clear.

Here’s an example, your company might decide that it wants to be the most popular grocery store in the area by selling the highest quality produce.

This vision provides a clear path to follow: Procuring the best produce around. Once we have the vision then we need to get more specific: management should define the guiding principles or values that the business will work by.

Typically a company can have anywhere from 3 to 30 values like “helping the local community” or “providing amazing customer service.”

These values as defined by the management team, are then implemented at all levels. Some companies have a full-time HR manager to ensure that people adhere to the companies values.

Let’s look at an example, if one of your company’s values is to “develop employees,” you might implement this by instituting reviews of all staff members and then offering training and development to bolster any weak spots.

Once a company defines where it wants to go (its vision) and how it should behave along the way (its values) then almost any question can be resolved easily. Even tricky questions like “Should we acquire that company?” “Should we invest more in research?” or “Should we expand into this market?” can be resolved easily, because any answer must take the company closer to its vision and adhere to its values.

This brings us nicely back to our personal achievements, as for a company, if you define your own path and your personal values, you can then boldly answer the big questions life has to throws at us.

Imagine you are walking along a path in a forest. Every time you come to a cross in the path you basically guess which path you should take because you can only see a short way ahead.

Now imagine the same situation, but viewed from above. You can look down at yourself and see your path as well as all the other paths perfectly, so you know exactly which one to take.

Just as this overview allows you to see where you want to go in the forest, it gives us a great analogy about how we should allow ourselves to rise above all those day to day mundane tasks so we have a big-picture view of our lives.

Ask yourself questions like, where do you see yourself in ten years? Imagine if everything falls into place and you become wildly successful, where would you be? Would you, build a mansion? Travel the world? Start a charitable foundation?

Start collecting all these ideal futures into a list: include all the things you’d like to see happen.

This view of the future, though totally speculative, is your path that you see through the middle of the forest – the one you want to be on. You should focus all your efforts on getting there, and review this goal every year so you know if you are still on the right path.

Just as we said for companies earlier as well as knowing what you want to achieve, you should also know what your personal values are. For example, many people try to be honest, wise and generous while leading a sustainable lifestyle and helping their communities.

For most people, their values are very identifiable because as long as they live by them, they don’t mind where they are or who they’re with. Write down your own values so you can refer back to them when you review your goal each year.

You should also boldly consider the big questions in life. Things like, how do you want to be remembered? Should you start a family? Is your career inspiring? Only by answering these will you be able to truly focus on what’s important.

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