I admit that pacing myself is something I often still struggle with. Once I get excited about a new goal, it’s easy for me to get off to an (overly-?) exuberant start only to find myself tripping over my own proverbial feet at some time in the process. I am so eager to put as much energy as humanly possible into reaching my goal, that I sometimes forget the tried-and-true message we can all learn from Aesop’s fable:
Slow and steady wins the race!
In the excitement we feel when planning our goal-related success, it’s a great temptation to artificially speed up our timeline. We want it done – if not NOW, then certainly as soon as possible!
But let’s be realistic. We seldom have the freedom to push everything else off of our plates in order to concentrate only on our newly selected goal. No matter how excited we are about
- writing that book, or
- beginning grad school, or
- landing that new job,
our laundry still has to be done, our bills have to be paid on time and we we still need groceries. In other words, setting a new goal doesn’t relieve us of our other responsibilities. Even if you can delegate a task or two, there simply are things no one else can – or should – do but…YOU!
Case in point: I originally planned to write this series of short articles for 11 Questions to Empower You in 2011 in just eleven days, committing myself to deal with one question per day. It worked out just fine the first few days! Then I began to feel increased time pressure because of other commitments. Not only ongoing projects I could have factored in better, but also unexpected assignments like developing proposals for organization interested in booking me as a coach or trainer. In other words, important tasks in their own right!
At first I simply realigned my original timeline to exclude the weekends, giving myself more time to catch up on tasks I’d either added or missed. I soon discover, however, that I also needed to take a breather and simply think about the upcoming entries that still needed to be written.
Finally, I had to admit to myself that I had again tried to force too many projects into too short a span of time.
“Paper is patient” (German saying)
In the planning phase we can be too focused on the task at hand and develop a “blind spot” for everything else in our lives. And – because paper is patient – red flags don’t automatically go up when our timeline leaves us little space to breathe.
No one wants to reach the day when there are more tasks overdue on their project list than there are tasks that are currently pending! If that happens too often, we find ourselves frustrated and demotivated. We stand to either achieve one goal at the expense of another or decrease our quality of life by succumbing to the stress we’ve created or simply give up all together.
How do you know if you are the rabbit or the hare?
- Take a look at your current project and to-do lists. Is everything up-to-date? If so, congratulations! If not, why not?
- Are there any to-do’s on your list that are already dangerously overdue? If so, be honest with yourself about how and why that has happened.
- What will it take to get that project or goal back on track? Are there tasks on your list that you can delegate or postpone? Where can you add more flexibility to your project/goal timeline without compromising the integrity of your results?
Though it’s great to get off to an enthusiastically good start, remember that what counts is who actually crosses the finish line!
If you have any questions about the amount of time and attention you should be dedicating to a specific goal, project or task, try plotting the 10 main tasks on your list on the urgency versus importance matrix.
- Sector A = Urgent & Important
- Sector B = Urgent & Unimportant
- Sector C = Non-Urgent & Important
- Sector D = Non-Urgent & Non-Important
The results will give you some welcome insight into exactly how you can best invest your time and resources!