From Dream Zone to Grindstone

highwayWhen all is said and done on the topic of Time Management, I believe it can all be boiled down to two pains:

1. You don’t have enough hours for all the things that need to be done.

2. No matter how hard you work, you feel that life is just passing you by.

The first pain requires a realistic action plan and the second pain requires standing back and getting perspective. Neither is more important than the other, but they simply cannot be done simultaneously. They are dance partners who must exchange leads.

If you simply throw yourself into your work every day, “nose to the grindstone”, it’s very easy to lose sight of where you’re going and whether or not your happy with your progress. If, however, you spend too much time daydreaming, you won’t have enough time to take the necessary steps toward realizing those dreams.  To avoid frustration, you must allow the time to do BOTH.

Going from dream zone to grindstone can be compared to going from navigating to driving. This is particularly true if you are a sole proprietor, where you are essentially driving alone. You could floor it and drive 500 miles in a day, but if you’re not pointing in the right direction you won’t get to your destination. You may even be further away than when you started. You need to get clear on where you are going first, see your route on the map, then take the wheel and DRIVE.

And drive you must. You don’t want to spend all day with that map. You’re not going to be able to go everywhere on this one trip, so limit yourself to just a few reachable destinations. Input from seasoned travelers can be very helpful, but don’t wait to get EVERYBODY’S input.  Yes, you need to take the necessary precautions for traffic and bad weather, but you just have to accept that there will be some things you won’t be able to control along your journey. At some point you just have to get in the driver’s seat and get some miles under your belt.

Of course the journey is not cleanly divided between navigating and driving. Most of the time must be spent driving, but it’s necessary to take breaks along the way, catch your breath, rest, and get your bearings. Are you still headed in the right direction? Are you still happy with the destination you have chosen or do you need to look at another map entirely? Have you settled on where you are going to sleep tonight?

That last question is an important one. For the big goals we want to reach (for the long distances we need to travel) we need to work in stages.  Are you able to drive to a safe stopping point, so you and your car can refuel for the next day’s journey? Maybe you didn’t travel as far as you intended today (most of us tend to overestimate our capacity), but you can take comfort from the fact that you are still moving forward in the right direction.  You need that dance between navigating and driving to get to your destination.

Now I’m sure many of you who drive with a GPS (Global Positioning System) may find this map analogy old-fashioned. Perhaps, but having a GPS doesn’t really change things. A GPS is a tool and like all tools, it has limitations. Sure, a GPS helps you focus more on your driving, but you still have to choose where you are going before a journey and, if it’s a long one, you should get an idea of the route to see if it squares with the GPS.

How do you do everything you want? The answer’s easy. You can’t. How do you get to your most important destinations? Navigate, drive. Repeat.

TODAY’S KEY TO UNLOCKING CLUTTER: Arriving at your destinations requires a dance between navigating and driving.

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