Falling off the goal wagon


In looking over my goal list for the year, I’m on target for certain goals, but a few could use a huge matcha tea jolt to get started. (Huge and anything with matcha seem to be in vogue, this year). Here we are, February of 2017, and I’m backtracking on some goals. If I’m perfectly honest I’m riveted by the current state of political affairs US, UK, North Korea, the Philippines are all ripe for the picking. Twitter and Instagram have become addictive.

To get back on track I could, I suppose, now create another list. Or give myself a break and have new deadlines. But it’s all pretty much an excuse for not acting on it. John Steinbeck once suggested that ‘rewriting as a process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.’

It’s the not going on or not moving forward which many of us find difficult.

Why is that?

I think we get stuck at the intersection of comfort and challenge. Maybe it’s that cycle of busy-ness rather than becoming. I have many clients who have goals to take on a bigger role, but when planning for the next move I hear, “I don’t have time. I have too much travel, too many meetings, just too busy to plan it out right now.

I understand completely, but not certain we can blame everything on lack of time and how to manage it better. Time and technology have become the world’s bogeyman. Consultants and productivity evangelists have made many millions on time management workshops. Oliver Burkeman has a great article in the Guardian, Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives. He shares a fascinating story on the rise and fall of Merlin Mann, personal productivity guru, creator of InboxZero. He notes, ‘’every time management expert’s first piece of advice is to keep a detailed log of your time use, but doing so just heightens our awareness of the minutes ticking by, then lost forever. I agree with his premise, to me, time management elixirs gives the illusion we’re in control. Besides the stress, focusing on time management tools papers over unproductive patterns.

When coaching clients through career transitions, I see patterns of disconnection rather than time management issues. They’re caught up with ‘’what I should do, what I want to do, and what I am doing.”

Last year I worked with a high-potential woman in financial services, her goal was to move into a Managing Director position. Her name was on the succession plan, so she was more than half-way there. In preparation for the talent reviews, her sponsor recommended that she rebuild her network in New York. That was not too difficult, as her travel brought her there regularly. But, she never found the time to do so. Her name is still on the talent grid, slightly down a notch, under ‘’meets expectations’’, a good performer with high potential but needs development. Oddly enought, her boss verbatim comments, ‘’she needs more time.’’ We blame time for everything.

Sometimes deceptively simple goals become problematic. We fill our time with completely contradictory projects or we procrastinate. Then we blame our lack of time. Like Steinbeck, I give myself slack time before getting started on difficult writing projects. Of late, Twitter and Instagram are my favorite diversions. Sometimes this distraction takes on a life of its own. I can’t blame Instagram or time, it’s an internal battle. As most productivity gurus come to realize, time becomes a scapegoat for people issues. For my client, it was the not knowing how to reach out and the unpredictability of results which held her back.

There’s not one simple answer as to what’s holding us back from achieving our goals. Burkeman suggests focusing on long-term goals adds to our stress levels and the ‘’supposed cure’’ of more goal setting makes the problem worse. Goals should energize us but when we fall off track we’re deenergized and disconnected.

We’re complicated creatures. I don’t have solutions but I do know that blaming time is simply an excuse. Besides limiting my twitter time, I can, however offer a three questions I’ve used to downsize my slack time and jumpstart my goals.

What’s important to me?

Why is this important?

What’s the true impact of doing nothing?