Let‘s talk about something that might feel like failing: not completing an action step
Life is not a straight line. That means there will be situations, when completing a scheduled task will be simply impossible. There can be various reasons for it: that step is too big, your situation changes, your priorities change during the week and many others. Like Mike Tyson said:
Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.
In the end, you just didn‘t manage to complete the planned action step for that week – what now?
We should understand that completing an action step is not all up to us. There are different factors which influence the results, too. As this is a fact, we should accept and not fight it. Understand and do the best out of it.
I’d like to discuss some techniques how to avoid that “failing“ situation. And if those don’t work, what shall we do to not feel embarrassed and discouraged?
Let’s begin at the beginning:
Imagine you’re sitting at your desk on a Monday evening. You know your long term vision and you know, which step needs to be done next. You take a pen and a piece of paper and begin to write:
- What do you want to have done by end of this week?
- Why do you want to do this and what will be the reward, when you succeed?
- What is hindering you?
- How do you plan to complete the task?
After that, you write the date and put your signature under the answers. Now, this piece of paper is a contract and you hang it on the fridge, you read again the answers and feel proud. Yes, it feels like you’ve already made it.
The days pass by, you work hard in your day job and relax in the evenings.
On the weekend you go out, meet friends, refresh, recover and so on… You deserve it.
And then, on Sunday, you meet your fridge with the piece of paper again… Damn, no time to finish it now… Realizing that you fail simply sucks…[ dramatic pause ]
Now stop, don’t think too much about the bad conscience. Let’s go back in time and rethink the whole situation.
It starts with preparation. One part is answering the four guiding questions, but you also have to keep in mind the timing. For example: if you want to ask your boss for more money, don’t schedule it for when he’s on vacation.
The next idea is to split the task into several tiny steps and do them day by day, instead of completing the whole chunk at once. Example: Before you build a stool, make a draft, clarify dimensions, buy material, prepare tools, build it.
If the circumstances change and there is really no possibility to complete the action step or you change the priorities and need to do other things now. Then pivot and do the other action step this week, keep the original one for later or delete it, if it’s obsolete. Example: you plan to go paragliding, but now it’s stormy weather? Go surfing.
And for the worst case: if you didn’t do anything, don’t blame yourself – just forgive yourself and do better next time. This can be explained as a kind of procrastination and you’re not the first and definitly not the last one to skip a to-do. By the way, here’s a pretty good text on how to deal with procrastination. Some of the advice are similar to the ones in our post here.
Here’s a personal story from last week:
(I thought) I have a dream! I want to heat insulate our attic, in order to keep more of the warm air inside the house (yes, I know it’s December and I’m late, but the winter didn’t arrive in Germany yet). However, I’ve cut this project into 3-4 steps:
1. sort the cables on the attic and clean up –> done!
2. get rid of the old stairs and install the new foldable ones –> missed!
3-4. buy insulating material and lay out on the attic –> need to finish 2. step first
Let’s analyze: why did I fail to complete the second task?
Here’s already the first point: I must confess my preparation was really bad. The only days, I can work on this topic are Saturdays and if necessary Sundays – that was known. But somehow I forgot that my wife is out for this weekend and I’m alone with the kids. Which means: no work – we play!
After realizing this, I accepted the fact that working on the stairs was no option this time. There is no need to be over-eager and force to accomplish a set task instead of using the opportunity and spend quality time with the kids. Plus: if they play alone, they will dismantle the rest of the house or – even worse – will “help” me, which ends up in total chaos…
Forgiving myself for not doing this action or any other instead would be the last option. This time, it was not necessary.
So what do we take away from this?
When you play the 52 steps game, you set the rules. So, if you consciously choose what you’re going to do and give yourself a task, it is only YOU who decides, if the priorities have changed and as a consequence do something else. And that is absolutely ok. But, if you don’t do anything everytime and “forgive” yourself, you cheat and as there are no other players but you – you cheat yourself and are disqualified.
In a nutshell:
Prepare yourself to minimize the risk of not completing a step. Do tiny bits of it in several days and swap tasks, if the situation changes. Forgive yourself and finish the point later, if it didn’t work out this time.
take it easy, the world won’t stop turning, if you take a day off
As always, I’d love to read your comments on this topic. Do you have experiences with missing an own task and have some good idea to add to the strategy? Feel welcome to comment