A Simple Plan to Get Things Done this Year
I have heard plenty of arguments against the practice of making resolutions. For the most part I agree with them. The tradition tends be nothing more than wishful thinking encapsulated into pithy promises which we never really intend to keep anyway. They are pointless pennies, tossed into the promise pool of a new year, with an ambivalent prayer which is worth nearly as much. I used to make resolutions too. I don’t any longer.
Goals, in my opinion, are far more effective and painful. A goal, rightly developed and executed, sets in motion a series of corresponding responsibilities, milestones, timelines and accountability. Goals require planning. Goals, as I see them, allow for the often humbling measurement of our effectiveness as we progress toward their completion. Goals force us to change our plans when we determine our initial ideas and concepts were mistaken.
My contention is this: Goals are for people who really want to change things. Resolutions are for those who merely want to feel better about themselves. I think G.K. Chesterton put it well “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes…unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” Real change usually means changing ourselves. Goals challenge us to change. Maybe it’s just semantics. But I think it’s important.
The approach I recommend in reaching any goal involves a “map” and a “motor.” Just as any destination is only reached with a proper map and proper vehicle, so any goal of significance is only reached when we map it out, and then set the motor running.
Several weeks ago I formulated several goals with respect to my professional career. Actually, they were goals related to expanding the influence and services we offer in the pharmacy I manage. There were 5 specific areas, or patient populations, which I wanted to see my business penetrate more effectively and offer services that were not currently available. The approach I took, and am still engaged in, involved mapping out 4 things for each goal. These 4 things were:
- Goal: What this goal is, in no more than 2 to 3 sentences.
- Plan: How I intended to reach that goal, with as many steps as I could think of.
- Measurement: How I could measure my success (never aim for what you can’t measure!)
- Key Contacts: Who will help me?
Once each of these 4 areas had been committed to writing for each of my 5 goals, the next step was to create a “next actions” list. I took this feather from the cap of David Allen, author of the incredibly useful book “Getting Things Done.” Every goal must always have 1 or more “next actions” associated with it. In other words, “What is the very next thing that must happen in order to move forward on this goal?” That is the “next action.” It gets written down, and crossed off as completed, being replaced by another “next action” in the process.
These 2 things (the 4 points for each goal and the “next actions” list) are somewhat like the map and the motor of an effective plan. They can be used individually and personally to bring about effective change in yourself. They can be used in your home to bring certain dreams into reality. They can be used in your professional practice to bring about certain positive changes and new products or services through a deliberate and stepwise approach.
The beauty of this approach is that it is flexible, allowing for us to change our plan as we measure our effectiveness in reaching a goal. This approach demands a measure of humility, recognizing that we may not have foreseen every possible obstacle, and a willingness to re-evaluate how we intend to proceed. This approach offers both a “big picture” view of where you want to go, as well as the small steps involved in getting there.
Pharmacists could do this. Healthcare professionals in general, in virtually any setting, could do this. While there is much going on in healthcare politics to concern us, there is not a lot I can do this week to change that. But I can take a “next action.” I can take 1 step forward. I can make mistakes, and will. And I can keep moving forward anyway.
We have a whole new year before us. Make the most of it. And may you find great success and satisfaction in reaching your goals.
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Tags: Getting Things Done