Seizing Time for the Work That Really Matters

I recently embarked on a mission to build a product to develop and hone my skills and passions and become the foundation of my life’s work. I started last week with my first objective:

Develop a scientific system to track and evaluate my progress towards my mission goal.

Borrowing heavily from Christina Wodtke’s system of Objectives and Key Results (OKR), I attempted to implement my own strategy to take control of my progress. My key results were as follows:

  • Journal every morning and evening to keep clear in my mind what my current objective is and what I need to do that day to stay on track.

Result: 67% — I found success when I journaled my plan for the next day the night before. I missed one night and the following morning was significantly slower and less inspired than mornings where I woke up knowing what I had to do first thing. This is a critical skill that I am going to have to maintain as I build upon it with future skills.

  • Micro-journal throughout the day to keep focused and aware of how I am spending my time and to give myself objective data points to review when I am not keeping up with my goals. Maintain a constant, clear picture of my progress and my pacing.

Result: 90% — I felt really good about the big picture tracking of my progress through micro-journaling. I had a super productive day yesterday that ended with a relaxed night off with the family and I lost touch with my journaling at that point. As a result didn’t get my next day planned before bed and that affected me in the morning. I need to remember to find time to sneak in micro-journaling even when I am taking time off from work.

Conclusion

On the whole I am really happy with this system. After just a few days working with these new methods I feel more focused and productive than ever before. I still need to work hard to continue to develop the habits that make it successful, but the system of journaling in the morning and evening and micro-journaling throughout the day enables me to stay focused on my goals and keep bringing myself back to the right mindset when life puts distractions in the way. It is this ability to come back to course after being pulled off that feels so powerful.

It is easy to get critical in journaling, but I find that by documenting my thoughts I find myself coming back to center without having to pass any value judgement on my actions or any wavering from my planned objectives. Through constant documentation it is easier to stay objective about my actions and not get emotionally involved when things aren’t going to plan. Objective review makes it easier to make the changes necessary without first having to fight through the self-criticism that can result when things get too far off course.

Next Steps

One thing that has become clear though, is that I am struggling to make enough time to actually document my thoughts and ideas in longer form. It is a great start to keep myself focused overall, but if I am not translating that into actual publishable work then I am still coming up short. Journaling is a great way to get ideas out onto paper, but the editing process that follows is a chore that requires significant blocks of uninterrupted time.

Given how the day quickly devolves into a cascading series of responses to external inputs, the only place I can see myself picking up extra hours is in the morning. Waking at 9am and starting my work day by 10 is not cutting it. I need to take on a drastic plan to capture some earlier morning hours for my writing, and this might just be my toughest project yet because goddamn I love my morning sleep!

So for the next week I will focus on the following objective: Gain 3 extra hours of uninterrupted thinking and writing time before starting the day.

Key Results

  • Maintain my journaling habits.
  • - Develop a morning routine that makes it exciting and easy to jump out of bed at the first sound of my alarm. Get up every morning at 6am and start journaling by 6:15.
  • - Find ways to wake up my body and mind and increase thinking and writing ability first thing in the morning. Spend at least one hour thinking and planning and at least one hour writing.

I’m excited for this next stage because early mornings have always seemed like a fabled unicorn to me, but the more I struggle to find quiet time to work, the more I realize the value of starting early to get it. I may very well be up against a tougher obstacle to overcome than what is possible in one week, but with my new system of documentation I can get started and review and iterate as I go. Success isn’t always found in perfect completion of a goal, but in developing a system that keeps you coming back until you’ve solved all the problems that come up along the way. I feel good about just getting started.

“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.” — Simon Sinek

Sources

The Art of the OKR, Christina Wodtke, http://eleganthack.com/the-art-of-the-okr/