Pebble vs. Rock: The Battle Between Short-term & Long-term Goals

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to
look at everything close-up.”

—Chuck Palahniuk

Short-term goals tend to consume our attention every day because, well, let’s face it: the feeling of instant gratification when we hit that magic milestone is just plain awesome.

Lately though, I’ve been struggling between pushing hundreds of pebbles around (doing what feels short-term and not entirely productive) to tackling my big rocks (longer-term projects that I know will move me forward). It’s a balancing act that I often feel like I’m failing.

If you were a fly on my home office wall, you'd hear me shout "Focus, Cecilia, Focus!" more times than I care to admit, mostly when I'm overwhelmed with to-dos.

This much obsessing over short-term goals can lead to tunnel vision that ultimately can steer you off course. That spells disaster if you’re trying to knock out a big goal or like me, launching a business.

I haven't perfected this struggle by any means, but here are a few things I'm trying to avoid tunnel vision. 

1.     Forget being busy

"Being busy does not always mean real work…
Seeming to do is not doing.”

—Thomas Edison

Busyness is like a badge of honor in today’s world. Yet busy doesn't equate to productive. I’ll admit it, I fall into that trap. My name is Cecilia and I’m a list-a-holic…

When you’re tempted to jam pack your schedule, pump the brakes and think: what are the 3 most effective things I could be doing to get me toward my end goal?

Jot them down, number them in order of 1, 2, and 3 and forget everything else. It’ll not only save your sanity (which you need when overwhelm sets in) but will also:

+ Force you to work on just the essentials so you’re not stretched too thin

+ Switch your focus from what’s urgent to what is important

+ Structure your day and remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing

At the end of the day, if all you’ve done is check off those 3 items, then you can go to bed knowing that you’re making progress toward your ultimate goal. Steps, no matter how small, still serve a purpose in moving you forward.

2.     Listen to your gut

Checking 3 items off your to-do list every day can keep you productive and on track, but how do you know if it’s the right track? Steve Jobs had a great test for himself:

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

We all go through rough patches. Some days I have to drag myself out of bed for a mental pep talk in the kitchen. Still, there’s never been a day when I didn’t want to be a speaker and trainer.

If your gut and heart tell you morning after morning that what you’re doing isn't taking you in a direction you want to be going or flat out sucks, then it’s time to listen. Change your to-do list or change your overall direction, and see what feels better.

3.     Take time to think

“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.”

—Bo Bennett

Make time to stop and think things through. Put down your cell phone. Close your laptop. Stop checking email like a fiend. Take a minute (maybe even 30) every day to just sit back and reflect on all your goals, both short-term and long-term. List them, dissect them, challenge them. Some good thought starters:

+ What do you hope to accomplish this month? this year?

+ Are you spending your time in the right ways to make that happen?

+ Where are you struggling and how you can you move past it? 

+ What will your life look like when you achieve your big dreams?

Purposeful thinking and visualization are great ways to check that you’re doing the right things every day to get closer to your big goals, and building a fulfilling career and life.

I’d love to hear your comments:

What do you do to keep your biggest goals in mind?

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