Activities in place of goals

Instead of having goals with outcomes and deadlines, I need to focus instead on the actual daily activities I need to do to get me there. While goals are often described as nouns, as concrete things that you want to exist, activities are most definitely verbs. So what five verbs are the most important (not urgent) uses of my time?

Document

At work, I need to document every thing that I do so that the higher ups in my company know they need to keep me around. It would be great if that weren’t the case and I could just help people when they need help, but if I want to keep my job, entering tickets is just as important as actually fixing stuff. I need to be better at this.

In my personal life, I also need to document things better. I’ve gotten too lax in my journaling, and I can feel my mind getting restless, out of control. For me, journaling helps quiet my mind by making sure my thoughts are expressed, if only to myself, and don’t have to keep banging around in there.

I also want to take more pictures and videos of my friends and family. It’s important to me to document the time I have with them. I don’t want to go so far with this that I miss out on being in the moment, but I’d like more pictures of the people I care about than the nearly zero I have now.

Create

I almost called this one “write,” but I think “create” better captures the connotation I’m looking for. I want to spend more time really bringing into existence something, a novel, a blog post, a sketch, that wasn’t there before. Creating something is qualitatively different from getting ready to create something. Tinkering with my outline isn’t creating. Writing new prose is.

And yes, I want to make posting on this blog a regular thing. And now I’ve jinxed it.

Clean

My environment is a mess. My office is a mess, my apartment is a mess, and the only reason my car isn’t a mess is that it’s fairly new and so far I’ve managed to keep it from accumulating junk.

In a lot of ways, I think that’s a defense mechanism for me. If my apartment is a mess, I can’t have anyone (particularly dates) over. So I don’t have to do anything about that. If the office is a mess, it looks like I’m busy.

But clutter takes a mental toll. Everything in my field of vision at home and at work is what David Allen calls an “open loop,” that is, something that doesn’t belong where it is. And some level of my mind is continually aware of that and wasting energy either trying to figure out how to fix it or feeling guilty about not trying to figure out how to fix it. It’s kind of amazing how quickly I can find things in the chaos because part of my mind is devoted to remembering where I saw everything last. But how much more could I do if I didn’t have to remember all that?

I’m not going to try to fix this all at once. But every day, I’m going to put something where it belongs.

Commune

Humans are social animals. I need to spend time with people I care about so I don’t go feral. But the reason I called this activity “commune” instead of “socialize” is that it’s not enough to just keep doing my own thing in the presence of other people. I need to really engage and be present in their lives. I need to reach out and talk about things that matter along with the light-hearted banter.

At work, I need to reach out to my users more. I’ve started doing this already, but I can do more. I need to talk to them and really understand what they do with the technology I give them and why they do it. Because if I know that, and I really know them, I can do a much better job of not only meeting their needs, but anticipating them.

Relax

Yes, this is something I have to remind myself to do. I have a tendency when I build up a head of steam to barrel on until I hit a wall. I have two speeds: bat-out-of-hell and off.

There needs to be a middle ground. I need to make time to relax and enjoy myself, by myself, without feeling guilty about what I’m not doing. I need to be able to read or watch TV not because I’m avoiding something important, but because letting myself unwind is good for me, and I’ve earned it.

So that’s it. Document, Create, Clean, Commune and Relax. With no goals for 2013, no deadlines or fixed outcomes in mind, if I do those five things regularly I think good things will happen in my life. I’ll be calmer, healthier, happier and might even get a few books written.

No goals. No destination. Just five solid ways to be present in the journey.

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