Planning What's Realistic (and Doable)

chessYesterday, I sat down with pen and paper and tried to make a decision about the projects I was going to be working on over the coming months. I wrote down those projects that were currently under way, as well as those I was most interested in pursuing.

The only problem was, by taking on the new projects, I was effectively doubling my workload, and I was barely keeping up with what was already on my plate. Something had to give.

For several hours, I tried to force a square peg into a round hole. I tried changing my perspective, thinking of it in different ways, rearranging my schedule over and over — all to no avail. It just wasn’t going to fit. I finally had to accept a few simple truths.

I Must Accept My Limitations
I had to be honest about my resources and availability over the coming months, as well as my commitment level to each current and prospective project. The truth was, I wasn’t completely committed to some of my current projects, and although I could be very motivated about some of the prospective ones, I knew that my resources and time constraints wouldn’t accommodate them. Plus, some of the projects would be best pursued after some of the others were well on their way to completion, if not 100 percent complete. That was the reality. Even though there were many things I wanted to do, I needed to accept what I could do, at least for the time being.

Seneca probably said it best: “Loads that are too heavy for the bearer are bound to overwhelm him.” I can continue to add to my schedule, to-do list, and obligations, but eventually, I will hit a wall. I’ll run out of time, energy and motivation, and resources, and on top of all that, the quality of my work and attention will decrease. I have to be very selective with my attention, if I hope for any of my efforts to count for something.

I Must┬áPrioritize, and Realize When I’m Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

There are many times when I’m pulled in too many directions, and the only way to keep it all in perspective and get my bearings is to stop and remember why I do it. When I can reconnect with that, all the other influences fall away — money, prestige, sparkly things that eventually lose their appeal, and whatever else clouds my vision. I’m able to find clarity and see the forest again, and decisions become a lot easier to make.

I Must Stay the Course

There will be many times when boredom, restlessness, failure and distractions challenge my ability to keep a grip on one thing that really matters to my success — “sticktoitiveness.” “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” That’s a quote from Thomas Edison who said that he himself failed 10,000 times before succeeding. It’s hard to stay committed for the time it takes to see a business to success. Just ask Chris Brogan, Seth Godin or Darren Rowse. Standing by a vision takes a lot of patience; seeing it through takes even more persistence.

The bottom line is, things will never be perfect, and I can’t do everything at once, but I can start somewhere. I can pick the top few projects that are realistically achievable at this stage in the game, those few projects that help me with my “big why.” Once I select those few, I have to stick with them, in spite of all the things that will pull for my attention. If I do, other doors will open up down the line, and I can take on some of the projects I put on the back burner in times past. Until then, I have to remember a wise quote by Twyla Tharp: “Better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds.”

How do you stay on the course toward success, especially considering how challenging it can be to fit all the priorities into a day and fight back the seemingly endless supply of distractions?

Image from Flickr by nestor galina

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