Now that the new year’s here, everyone has advice for achieving goals and becoming more effective. For me, it all boils down to three actions that I take together to “do what I gotta do”:

  1. Choose that one thing. What is that one thing that you want to get done? There may be many, but which is the most important to get done first? Be strong. Make the choice and stick to it.
  2. Schedule it. How long will it take to do? Are there risks? Dependencies? Break it into tasks and put them on a calendar. Consider everything else you have to do to “keep the lights on”–like driving the kids around or keeping your doctor appointment. Commit to your plan and tell someone you respect. If they say it’s optimistic, then give yourself more time. Build in room for unexpected curve balls, and be realistic.
  3. Deflect “incoming”. You know there will be non-essentials vying for your attention. For each new possibility ask yourself, “Will this move my goal forward?” If not, kick it down (or off) your priority list. Don’t dilute your attention. Each time you choose something else, everything slows down.

This may sound regimented, but with practice it becomes second nature. Whatever you might tell yourself, you are the only boss of your time. You make the tradeoff for or against your goal. Take back your power and feel the sweet satisfaction of getting things done.

(Photo: Some of my favorite office things: my pillow, my yoga mat, my new weekly planner, and my favorite pen.)