08 February 2006

Self Management Check List

1. Specify a clear cut goal you want to accomplish. And be very specific. Like I'll write for four hours a day, or run three miles, or do 30 push ups, or can 24 quarts of tomatoes, or spend an hour crocheting.

2. Specify when you'll do it. Like everyday, Monday through Friday, or every morning, seven days a week, or at 10:00 am on Thursday.

3. Record your hit rate. Make a record of your successes and your failures, like a graph of the numbers of hours per day or a note on your calendar of the number of miles run each day.

4. Make a public commitment. Tell someone what your goals and your deadline are. And even ask them to check on you to see if you got it done. That's a subtle way of arranging for a little mild social reward or punishment, approval or disapproval, depending on whether you get the job done. No big deal, but it helps.

5. Add an explicit penalty for failure, if you need to. Tell your monitor you'll pay them a quarter or a dollar or take them out to lunch for each of your failures. But keep the penalty small, almost at a joke level, otherwise everyone will start getting uptight, and you're liable to fib a bit.

6. Think small. Don't try to make up for your past sins in a single day. If you've got a hundred letters to write, don't contact to do them all right away. A postcard a day may be infinitely better than you're doing now. Going for too much too soon is why many people fail at self-management. That's a big one so watch out for it.

7. Specify the amount of product you're going to produce. If simply specifying the amount of time you're going to log in doesn't do the trick, in other words, if you just sit there goofing off, specify the number of rows you're going to knit, the number of pages you're going to read, or whatever.

8. Get a timer that beeps every five minutes and chart whether you're on task, if you find yourself drifting off too much. This is especially good when you might have trouble measuring the amount of the product. Like when you're doing spring cleaning, but may get distracted too easily by Better Homes and Gardens.

9. Arrange for regular contact with your monitor, daily or weekly as needed. This is another one of those week points in the system. It helps to put your self-management project on the agenda with someone you meet with regularly and formally, a superior, a peer, or a sub-ordinate -- it doesn't matter.

10. Arrange for your friend to monitor your graphing as well as your goal attainment. I think it's important to keep a good record of your performance so you'll be motivated not to mess up that pretty record, but you might also need to contract your charting, or that charting may fall out.

11. "Put Satan behind you." Get rid of distractions. Try to do your work when and where no one can bother you. Watch out for that phone. And we can blow a whole morning sorting through our junk mail and new magazines. Get as many tempting distractions out of your work environment as possible. Put the axe to the TV set.

12. Recycle. Your self-management project may not work the first time you try it. And it will certainly fall apart from time to time, so be prepared with some scotch tape and bubble gum to put it back together again. Remember, you do not demean yourself by using these explicit self-management techniques. Use them and you'll be in the company of some of the world's most productive people.

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