The civilized world we live in today is the result of thousands of years of visions coming true. The most impressive structures built by men started as ideas in somebody’s head.
Dreams, however, don’t come true on their own. Success is not something that happens serendipitously. You don’t wake up one day to find that you’ve reach your goals overnight and now you are a successful person!
It’s funny that some people think that is how it works! They believe things will magically happen, someday. They dream, and dream, and dream, and hope that one day those dreams are going to come true. How, exactly? They don’t know! They’re too busy taking care of the other stuff in their lives. When all the other stuff stops taking so much of their time, they think they will put some effort into those ideas in the back of their heads. What it’s even more interesting is that they believe it will happen within a few months! Six months to a year is the most common time frame I hear when I talk to people that are too busy to take care of the really important things in their lives. In six to twelve months those other problems will be taken care of and then they will be free to focus on what they really want. Oh, and do you think they feel like a failure when a year goes by and nothing happens? No, they don’t! They actually don’t even register the passing of time, they just keep saying the same thing, referring to the same time frame for years and years! If someone calls them out, they have a perfectly acceptable excuse to explain themselves. The biggest problem is that they believe in those excuses. Some people go through the “awakening” phase when they realize that what they’ve been wanting for a very long time hasn’t happened yet, they haven’t become the person they once thought they would. That is the root of depression for so many people. Sometimes this period is triggered by a divorce, a death in the family, something so powerful that gets them to think about what they’re doing to their own lives. They finally feel the weight of time on their shoulders. There was always something else, other priorities, other goals, other people’s dreams, wasted opportunities, wasted time… When this happens, they tend to feel rushed, they want to achieve their dreams now, they want to drop everything and focus only on their visions. Most of the time, this is not possible, but it leads to a common behavior: the urgency syndrome. They can’t be bothered to plan, setting deadlines, creating a structured project, organizing action. No, they go straight to action because they want results NOW! Needless to say, this leads to the same the cycle, now not because they’re not doing anything, but because they’re doing things randomly, and carelessly.
The more detailed your plan is, the more likely you are to achieve your goal.
This is simple to understand. Most times, we fail to reach our dreams not because we’re incompetent, or because we self-sabotage, or because we’re lazy, disorganized, and unfocused. All that can play a role in slowing down our results, but I’ve seen all kinds of people achieve goals. The good, the bad, the lazy, the proactive, the stupid, the smart, the leader, the shy, and so on. You don’t have to be perfect to plan and achieve your goals. Anyone can do it. This sounds like self-help pep-talk, but it’s true. Very often, we assume we need to “fix ourselves” before we’re ready to go after our big dreams. We keep telling ourselves that we need to stop self-sabotaging, we need to be more focused, we need to learn this and that, and only after we become this ideal person we can start to work towards our dreams. That is far from reality. Successful people can be flawed in many ways – nobody is perfect, right?! Of course we can work on personality and behavioral difficulties too. But we can do it at the same time we’re working on our personal projects. In fact, chasing your goals will teach you many lessons, helping you develop yourself and work on those difficulties. The difference is in how you plan, how detailed your project is, and the tools you have at hand to support your daily efforts. The average goal setting book will teach you how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, and in a very basic, superficial way, how to plan those goals, adding actions to your daily routine. For some people, that is enough. Some very successful people don’t even need that, they just set goals in their heads, do what needs to be done effectively, and conquer one dream after the other. For others, the planned S.M.A.R.T goals end up forgotten somewhere out of sight. Most of the time, they just don’t know what to do exactly to get those things done. The plans are shallow, beautiful on paper, but tricky to bring into daily life. Other times, the plans are sound but they lack support to be easily implemented in the daily routine. Different people need different sets of tools. Some people just do it, while others need details and support. I doubt the former type would even be reading this article, they don’t need it. The latter group though can benefit greatly from the tools we talk about here.
One of the most powerful tools used by businesses to implement strategies and keep track of progress is project management. This is not a new concept borrowed from the business world, of course. From apps and softwares, to checklists, spreadsheets, graphics, and other resources, you can surround yourself with different things you can use to optimize your routine, and increase the chances that you will be able to complete each one of your dreams. You, of course, should choose the best ones that work for you. The most simple things like checklists and spreadsheets can have an extremely powerful effect on productivity.
I call this framework “dream design”, and this is an art in itself. Instead of just setting goals loosely, and then drafting a few actions to reach them (which is a simple step that most people who set goals don’t even bother doing!), I’ll teach you how to turn each one of your dreams into complex and comprehensive plans of action. By carefully turning abstract dreams into real structured projects, you’ll be able to easily know on a daily basis what exactly you must do to advance and make progress.
This is one of the most powerful remedies against procrastination. Very often, we procrastinate simply because we feel lost. We don’t know exactly what we should be doing, and whenever we don’t fully understand a task, we try to avoid it. This level of planning also helps us keep close track of our progress. It’s not uncommon that after a while we can’t tell how much we’ve done towards project, or how much we’ve learned. We have only two standards, zero and complete. Anything in the middle gives us the impression that we’re not doing well enough. Measuring the progress of a project can have a very powerful impact on our motivation, and also our self-esteem. When we see how much we’ve done, we feel better about ourselves and want to continue working so we keep this good feeling alive.