Last time I blogged about your “Hopes and Dreams” file. Hopes and dreams are great things. But they aren’t enough. None of them will ever happen unless you translate them into something a bit more tangible.
That thing is a project. A project is one of your hopes and dreams that you’ve taken two further steps on:
1) You’ve defined what it looks like, in tangible terms.
2) You’ve made a definite commitment to achieve it.
As an example, one of your hopes and dreams might be to be a published novelist someday. If you’re reading this blog, that’s either something you’re hoping for, or it’s something you’ve already achieved. How do you translate that into a project?
First, you define what it looks like in concrete terms. You can’t be a published novelist unless you actually write a book, sell it, and see it through the fiery process of editing and all the way through to publication. That means that you need to choose your category, pick a title, and choose characters and a storyline and a storyworld.
Second, you commit to writing that particular book. Commitment means that you won’t quit when things get hard (they will). You won’t quit when your critique buddies find flaws (they will). You won’t quit when the agents say they’re not interested in that particular book (they will). You won’t quit when the editors say no (they will). You won’t quit when the substantive editorial letter comes back with 20 pages of requested revisions (it will). Commitment means that you’re in all the way. Commitment means that you work on the book until one of two things happen — either you realize that the book is fatally flawed, or you finish the book.
I think it’s a powerful thing to make a list of annual goals, listing all the projects you’ve committed to (or the ones you might commit to) during the year. So every year, I make a list of annual goals. I run a small corporation, and I’m required by law to have a Board of Directors meeting and a Shareholders meeting at least once a year. Never mind that the Board of Directors is just me and my wife. Never mind that the Shareholders is also just us two. I write up a formal President’s Report for the previous year, and I present my Annual Goals for the coming year. We vote on it. (It always passes unanimously.) Then I show it to my accountant, who likes to make sure that I’m being legal with my corporate responsibilities.
Right now, I’ve got my Annual Goals for 2010 stuck to the filing cabinet beside my desk. I look at it every morning, first thing, to remind myself of all the cool things I want to get done this year.
Understand that we all suffer from the tendency to bite off more than we can chew. So I don’t really expect to achieve everything on my Annual Goals list. Last year I had ten items on my list and I only got two of them done. But they were the two most important ones, and it was an outstanding year. This year, I have nineteen items on the list, but there are three that are really important. I’ve got them highlighted in yellow. If I get only those three done, it’ll be an outstanding year.
Do you have an Annual Goals list? If not, it’s not too late. And if you have one, do you know which items are the absolute Must Do items, and which aren’t? Make an Annual Goals list. Highlight the ones that will give you the biggest bang for the buck. Commit to those few. Then look at your list every day.
Ten months from now, I’m betting you’ll have those done — or you’ll have busted a lung trying.