Following yesterday’s meditation on the perils of perfectionism, we finally arrive at time-management. This issue is related to everything we’ve talked about this week, including procrastination and motivation.
Ultimately, time-management is less about time and more about structure. There are two kinds of “time structure”:
1) The time structures we make for ourselves.
2) The time structures others make for us.
Here’s the thing: other people are experts at making time structures that rule over us. But as individuals, we’re often not so expert at making “appointments” with ourselves. So let’s talk about that a little and see how we can improve in that area.
If you’ve read books like Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and many others like it in the success genre, then you know that such authors recommend filling out a to-do list at the end of each and every day. That way, the subconscious mind works on the tasks while sleeping – or so the theory goes.
Somehow, I think that my mind would rather be sleeping, so I tend to make my to-do lists first thing in the morning. But in recent months, it dawned on me that working from day-to-day is not as effective as it might be because I find myself plugging in tasks as I go along without a dedicated master plan. For me, creating daily to-do lists simply isn’t structure enough.
To increase my productivity and move with more “time structure” towards achieving my goals, I now jot out monthly and weekly plans. I decide in advance about various milestones, and use my iPhone to create pop-up reminders that help keep me on track.
This in no way eliminates the daily creation of to-do lists, but it does give them greater focus. What happens is that each daily task I write down becomes more intimately directed at the “master narrative” of my goals (a.k.a. dreams and desires). Hardly anything makes it on my list that isn’t focused on those aspirations.
I once heard the marketer Joe Polish talk about the three coins of productivity and time-management. He said that he divides his tasks into three kinds:
1) Gold coin tasks
2) Silver coin tasks
3) Bronze coin tasks
This is a really great idea. In his case, Polish is talking about dividing tasks into those that make you the most money, but you could easily replace money with other concepts, such as 100 new vocabulary words. For Magnetic Memory readers, that is no doubt a very gold coin task indeed.
It all depends on your personal goals. The key principle is to associate different levels of value to things that we do. This act of separation will shape your approach to prioritization and further calibrate your daily to-do lists with the monthly and weekly goals.
On the matter of having goals, far too people write them down. We are all capable of achieving virtually anything we put our minds to within the realms of earthly possibility (if not beyond), but far too few people actually write those goals down.
I find that one of the most important aspects of writing down goals is that it is a great way of finding out if your goals are actually something you want to achieve. The effect of this “reality check” really kicks in if you take a few moments to “goal journal,” by writing out your goals every single day.
For example, I goal journal every morning as I write out my to-do list. It is never repetitive because there are always variations and new ideas to add or shades to fill in – or take away.
For months I wrote down that I wanted to live by the ocean. But as time passed and I reflected on it day after day in writing, I found that, not only did this goal not gel with other, more important goals, but I didn’t in fact want to live by the ocean at all. In fact, it became increasingly evident that it was something I wanted to achieve in order to please someone else, not myself.
My conscious mind might never have discovered this without conducting a daily goal meditation. My true desires might have been continually buried beneath false illusions if it weren’t for this daily habit of goal excavation.
And when you discover what your real dreams and aspirations are, the results can be explosive.
Richard Wiseman has discussed research in his book 59 Seconds which provides strong evidence that writing goals down produces more results than merely reflecting on them in the mind. Even without evidence, it has long been said that “the hand builds the mind,” and it is well known that people like Leonardo da Vinci practiced mirror writing, an activity that quite likely boosted his genius.
Other people have pointed out that ambidexterity can enhance intelligence and the overall quality of thought, so for some time I have been practicing writing out goals in my non-dominant hand. It’s impossible for me to prove that these things are directly linked to the positive things that have been going on in my life, but it only stands to reason that they do, because without such exercises, dear Memorizers, I would not be writing this message to you today.
Whether you write out your goals with your right hand, left hand or both, here are some general guidelines you can follow with respect to managing your time and setting vibrant and achievable goals:
1. Create monthly, weekly and daily to-do lists for foreign language vocabulary memorization with your Memory Palaces.
2. Be as specific as possible about what it is you want to achieve – break each accomplishment into parts so that you can schedule those parts in without proceeding vaguely along.
3. Write down your goals. Try doing it daily for at least a month, but three months is better. It’s often said that if you can do something for 30 consecutive days, it will become a habit for life, but the actual research says that it’s more like 90 consecutive days. Nonetheless, after 30 days, you should have enough experience with the method that you’ll note a positive change insofar as moving towards your goals is concerned.
4. Allow for flexibility. Distractions will come up.
5. Refine your goals. Don’t feel that just because you’re committed to something that you cannot change it as you go along. It would be unrealistic and possibly prevent you from taking action if you came to a point along your Magnetic Memorization journey where something no longer fit your portrait of the universe and yet forced yourself to keep chugging along based on a commitment you made months or even years ago.
6. Avoid perfectionism. It follows from the previous point about refining goals that perfectionism can slow you down. It can also create fear and anxiety, and at its worse, negative thoughts.
7. Keep your eye on the larger vision or the “master narrative” you have for your life. If it is achieving fluency, write that down and write it in the present tense as if it were already happening. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you find yourself making decisions that manifest your dreams for you, especially if you write your goals down every single day.
Give these ideas a try and let me know how you do.
Until then time, make sure to teach someone what you have learned about memorization. It’s the best way to deepen your own understanding and to help make the world a better – and more memorable – place. The more we remember, the more we can remember, and the more we learn, the more we can learn.
About the author: Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st Century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary in a way that is easy, elegant, effective and fun.
Join me on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.