The machinery is humming in the background. I’m on my 10th email chain of the day and my eyes are drooping from the drudgery of answering the same questions I have been asked a thousand times by a thousand different people. The need for movement rises up inside me until I can take it no longer. Luckily I have a plant that needs attention in the background, so I gather my PPE, pickup my tape measure and a legal pad, and walk out of the office. Heat and the smell of rubber blasts my face as the unconditioned environment envelopes my body. I peer around and everywhere is a different problem to solve, a different project to start, a new complaint from an operator to settle. It’s a sea of endless improvement opportunity and I have to start cataloging my findings. The walk wakes up my mind and my senses and I have reset.
TL;DR – I got antsy sitting in my seat so I decided to go into the plant and find something to do.
POINT IS, this is the beginning of my routine for designing projects and improvements, all of which involve some big brain planning which, let’s face it, I am NOT cut out for. You see, despite my decent ability to problem solve, that ability is contrasted with my appalling ability to stay organized. Goal setting to the rescue! I have developed a system to see goals through. Now I will warn, just as everything else on this page, I am very imperfect at executing on my own plans. Here’s the catch though; if I constantly keep trying methods to help a portion of my life, the habit of trying will cascade to the other methods causing positive feedback. Which segways quite nicely into my first rule:
2. Schedule Your Time – Every hour of the day is an hour that you could be learning, earning, and churning. A schedule is the perfect way to maximize your work time and your free time. Dedication of time creates efficiency of work, allowing you to spend less time working, more time earning, and more time doing what you want. As with diets, exercise and learning, it is best to start simple and upgrade as you go. If the best you can do is just write down things you remember on the day you need to remember them then the habit is developing it just needs time. This is quite possibly the most difficult part of the goal setting process as it requires much more memory that I personally lack. Regardless as I build the habit of creating schedules, using schedules and developing more short term to do lists, I find my stress decrease. There are two pieces of advice that will help develop scheduling as a skill:
1.) Find a job or hobby that requires some level of scheduling. Admit to your superior or mentor that you are lacking in scheduling and organizational skills and that you would like to learn. Any good leader will help you through the progress and allow you to struggle without punishing the learning behavior. If this isn’t the case, you need to search for new leadership.
2.) Find your fudge ratio. Typically people underestimate the time it will take to complete a task by a margin of 1.5 – 2 at a surprisingly consistent rate. It is almost as if the old internal ticker is working correctly but someone has thrown it in a different time zone. You need to re-calibrate your internal clock and measure how long it takes to complete task while recording your predicted time and your actual time. As you continue you will see that a pattern will emerge and that it will start to correct itself as you become aware of the inherent misalignment of your own brains perception of time.
There are certain tools that will help you plan your time, more effectively and determine how your time is better suited. It’s best to start with Google Calendar and move up, but at the high end you will see scheduling tools as powerful as the Gantt chart which was dreamed up by a commie industrial engineer back a hundred years ago or so for the sole purpose of proper time management during work and projects. You know what, don’t use his charts. They’re communist propaganda. NEXT!
3. Create Actionable Items – In order to maintain your timeline and schedule properly, actions need to be taken to complete portions of the goal or project. Make sure the items you perform are MEASURABLE. A goal is useless unless it can be quantified in some fashion, so make sure the actions you have to complete for it are as well. This concept of measurable goals can be hard to master in practice, but once you start to master it you begin to see the patterns of measurement categories. But I will give one hint for when you are stuck with developing a measurement to track: Think in terms of “At what point do I need to decrease a particular habit, behavior, or process for it to significantly impact my productivity, well-being, or work output for the amount of time put in” , or “To what extent can I improve or implement a habit, behavior, or process to significantly impact my productivity, well-being, or work output for the amount of time put in.” This won’t work for every situation. Sometimes your goal can be more problem oriented rather than solution oriented. Here’s an example. Let’s say there’s an issue in my plant and we have it on good evidence that a particular setting is causing it. My goal can be to increase the amount of units discovered with the issue before they make it to the next process to form data about how, why, and what we should do if the non-conformity begins to rise. I don’t problem oriented goals are a great basis for actionable items leading to the overall goal. Sometimes your goal is to just start from square one or to start over with a previous goal, but at least you have a foundation to build your actions and your life around.
4. Adapt – I will keep this one brief, but the ability to adapt and roll with the punches really helps keep your spirits up when working toward your goals. As with step one, no plan is perfect. Part of the fun and reward of working towards a goals should be a natural resistance to the goal coming to fruition. As they say iron sharpens iron. As you sharpen your ideas, they sharpen you.
I really can go on about a topic…
Sorry this took so long everyone… I struggled to write this, but such is the name of the game. The thing that counts is that I was able to follow through and finish it. As an actual final tip I would like to say to stick with your goal even if its not met initially. The momentum of completion bleeds into your work like sharpie through a white T-shirt. Keep hammering away one chip off the block at a time and you will be surprised at how your mindset naturally inclines toward the discomfort of struggle. The discomfort feels strangely fresh when you realize how little you have been accomplishing. This article may be a work in progress as I find better ways to express my ideas, but I will try to keep you updated with my latest thoughts.