Goals: Time is Finite. Efficiency is Not.

A friend of mine had an excellent blog post earlier this week about learning to play a new instrument and overcoming obstacles. In it, he mentioned a quote from a music instructor he’d had: “Air is finite. Efficiency is not.” My friend extended that to time management, and I completely agree. It’s something I come across all the time in my own life.

We’re all given the same amount of time each day. What we do with that time is completely up to us, more or less. I’m not going to blog today about how *you* ought to be using your time. I hate it when people try to make that decision for me. No–today I’m looking at how *I* spend my time.

There are days when I feel like I get a ton done. I’m just super efficient, and I look at what I accomplished at the end of the day, and I’m just amazed. There are other days when I somehow let my time slip through my fingers. One minute I have the whole day, the next minute that day is over, and I’ve got nothing to show for it.

What makes the difference? For me, it’s usually the planning I put into the day ahead of time. If I have a list and have thought through what needs to happen, I do a good job of getting the items on that list done. If I don’t have a list, it’s rare that I end up having much success that day.

Ironically, even on the days when my list seems overwhelmingly long, I almost always get all the things done on it that I set out to do. I suppose I should put a disclaimer on that statement. A lot of the time, I’ll think something needs to be done as I’m planning my day, but then when I’m in the middle of the day, I decide that item wasn’t essential, after all. I suppose that’s a bit of a cop out. Couldn’t I just make a long list, then sit down the next day and decide none of that needs to happen? I suppose so–but I make those decisions usually because I’m prioritizing. Even when nothing on my list gets done, I still end up getting more done in general because I made the effort of prioritizing. Does that make sense?

The last two weeks, I’ve gotten a lot done. I’ve gardened, dug ditches, gone fishing, finished writing almost half of a book, helped my wife have a baby, cooked dinners, cleaned the house, done some massive decluttering, lost around 5 pounds, gone to two Magic prereleases–it’s a long list. I could keep going, but I think the point is made.

I was just looking back at all of it this morning, and I was really pleasantly surprised at how well everything’s gone. (Of course, as soon as I write that, I automatically wonder what lies around the corner . . . )

I can’t say enough about how much organization and goals have helped me in my life. I remember when I had just started my mission, back when I was 19. We had a lesson on goal setting, and I was seriously stumped. I had a long conversation with my teacher after class. Brueder Hahn was his name, I believe. I asked him how in the world goals could really be useful. I’d never set them for myself before, and they seemed like a total waste of time. He gave me a quote by Thomas S. Monson (now President of the Mormon church):

“When we deal in generalities, we shall never succeed. When we deal in specifics, we shall rarely have a failure. When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of performance accelerates.”

I respected the source of the quote, but I didn’t really believe it. Goals seemed like hoops to jump through. A needless waste of time. Why spend all that effort setting goals if it’s for something you’re just going to do anyway?

It took me about a year as a missionary, but I finally saw the light when it comes to goals. It took me a while when I came home from my mission, but once again–I finally saw how well it would help me if I started setting them. Lists are the same way. They’re my goals for the day.

Anyway. I don’t know what else to say about this topic. It’s just a sort of observation I made this morning, and I felt like sharing it with all of you. I know people who hate goals–they still think they’re needless. And I can respect that. But for me? I can’t think of living without them. They help me in every area of my life: work, family, writing, housework. You name it.

What are your thoughts on goals?

4 thoughts on “Goals: Time is Finite. Efficiency is Not.”

  1. I think having goals is the only reason I’ve got two books being queried and multiple others in various stages of development. I would be USELESS without forcing myself to stick to deadlines. That being said, once you hit certain goals, it can be hard to find the next thing to aim at. Especially with writing.

  2. That’s true. Big goals that get fulfilled can leave a hole in your life–they need to be filled with new goals. 🙂 New books, new challenges, new fun.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, with the benefit of goal setting and the need to have a new goal. In fact, I am discovering I may need multiple goals going at once. I find as soon as one monumental goal has been accomplished, especially if it has required the majority of my time and energy, I feel a void of focus and drive. Overcoming that void gets harder each time, so setting and beginning a new goal before the first has ended is my new strategy. I’ll let you know if it works (or just drives me crazy)!

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