When it comes to completing a difficult project, we tend to grow anxious as the deadline, be it self-imposed or a commitment to another body, approaches. We grow fearful that the quality of our work is sub-standard. We begin to panic. If only we’d started sooner, we think. If only we’d worked harder. If only…
In order to better understand why we find ourselves in this spot all too often, it serves well to reflect upon what made us reach this state in the first place. I know the feeling whenever an exam date approaches and I have yet to prepare enough. It ruins every moment of free time for myself and leaves me with a feeling of guilt inside. “Why am I not studying right now? Maybe I should just relax and do it later.” These thoughts are normal, but definitely not desirable.
I’d like for you to picture your ideal self. Are you in balance between your work and responsibilities, be they academic, athletic, or artistic in nature? Now compare this to your current self. If these two images are different, then think about what can be done to make the ideal real. What can you do to make your ideal self your current self? The in-between is the only way to reach the other side (your ideal productive self). Crossing this in-between will require patience and self-control, but avoiding this part of our development will only net us a loss in the end.
Ok. We’re ready to start achieving our goals. Should we jump right in? In my view, we ought to take it slow. A calculated, methodical approach will serve us far better than going 0-100 right away because if we plan ahead for potential shortcomings, we are less likely to grow overwhelmed and stop our progress towards productivity altogether.
When it comes to planning, knowing yourself is key. If you cannot be honest with yourself on what you need to improve upon and how you can go about improving it with your own approach, failure is inevitable. This isn’t to say that a time block that works for someone can’t be modified to suit our own, but the key lies in modifying this plan to fit your own needs. Draft an idea of what your strengths and weaknesses (related to goal setting and execution) are, and then begin to make a framework in the form of a calendar, schedule, or whatever suits your goal plan. The objective here is to help you develop a plan that you yourself will execute; it revolves completely around time, and as such, allocating your time wisely is extremely important. For scheduling time, I highly recommend trying out Google Calendar. You can sync it to your phone and have the app so that every change you make is synced across your devices. It’s also color-coded, so if you’d like to use that to help with planning, it’s an added plus.
In order to reach our goals, we cannot approach them as if they will just happen one day. Goals aren’t pre-made; they require consistent effort to form. This effort, when crammed to the last minute, ends up turning into unnecessary stress were we to plan for it ahead of time. In order to achieve anything, we must learn to sacrifice time for the goals we dream of fulfilling. The process will start out slow, but with time we will learn and grow into more productive people as a result.
Our goals are akin to a tree with many branches; it bears fruit after long periods of nurturing and attention by the earth. Were the seed to be neglected, we would come to face a skeleton of this very tree—devoid of any fruit. Let us neglect not and persevere towards productivity, lest we grow regretful over what could have been.