Productivity & Lifestyle Design

Don’t Make Your Goals Rely on External Factors

I had spoken about goals in my first ever blog. It was more about turning goals into your life purpose. Recently, when I read some more stuff on this topic, I thought I should share some more insights with you. Author Cal Newport has written a nice book called ‘Deep Work’. Deep Work teaches how to develop your focus and resist distractions. In this book, he primarily states the two types of work on which we spend our daily time on – Deep Work and Shallow Work.

Deep work is something which is focused, uninterrupted and undistracted, which extracts breakthrough outcome. The best ideas and the most meaningful progress comes from deep work, not shallow work. Shallow work is nothing but answering emails, making reports, browsing through social media etc. This work does not yield any meaningful outcome. According to the author and studies made on this topic, human capacity to do intense deep work is maximum up to 4 hours per day. This is true even for experts.

So when you are working towards your goals, are you working on them through Deep Work or Shallow Work? Most of the times, we delay doing meaningful work because of procrastination. Procrastination comes from resistance. And resistance is fed by an unknown fear. In short, our key enemy which makes us avoid Deep Work is this unknown fear.

“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it”

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Basically, author Steven Pressfield says that the fear which is feeding your resistance is a clear indicator that you must do that task. It is a compass that makes you identify the things which you need to focus in your life. The goals where we need to invest time into deep work. For example, I never feel any resistance towards playing Call of Duty on my mobile or watching a quick video on YouTube, anytime during the day. But I do feel resistance towards sitting down and writing a new blog for the week. So if there is any fear which is stopping you from doing the deep work, you must rather be more determined to start this work immediately. I have written more about avoiding procrastination in my previous blog, which you can find here.

Outcome Goal vs. Input Goal

If you have a goal that has a clear dependency on external factors, the factors which are practically not in your control, then you might have to rethink about these goals. These goals may not be meaningful for you in the long term. If I have a goal stating that I want to have 1000 visits on my blog post, then my goal is clearly relying on external factors. It is an Outcome Goal. Instead, if my goal is to write best possible blog post and I want to write consistently, then it is a self-relying goal. In short, it is an Input Goal. Always focus on Input Goals which will turn into something meaningful rather than something which will keep you engaged with Shallow Work.

When your goal is self dependent, it creates resistance. That should make you realize that it’s a right goal.

– Unknown

The Vampire Test

Author Austin Kleon has beautifully explained this test in his book ‘Show Your Work’, where he states that, if you are engaging yourself with any topic, any task or any person who is sucking your energy, then they are the vampires. You should avoid engaging with them. But if there is any task or a person who is not draining your energy, rather adding energy to you, then they are not vampires and you can surely engage with them. The Vampire Test can be applied to your goals as well. If at all you feel that the goals which you have set make you feel tensed or tires you out, then they definitely come under the vampire category. You should immediately get rid of them. Instead, if there is any goal which makes you feel energetic, inspiring, curious, you must go for it! As the author quotes Derek Sivers in this book, “Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.”

Resist the temptation to justify your distractions

“Instagram helps stay in touch with my college friends”. By justifying such distractions, we increase the opportunity cost to a great extent. When you resist such temptations (shallow work) from your daily schedule, you automatically allocate time for some meaningful work which will help towards achieving your goals. It is very easy to listen to your temptations rather than fighting your resistance. But then, remember the previous quote. This resistance is a clear indicator of the fact that whatever you are avoiding is actually most important.

Identify 2-3 activities that will drive you towards your goals

Your goal is nothing but a combination of few activities to be done consistently on a daily basis. We always think about our goals as something which is far away from us, and it is like the ultimate destination in our lives. Many successful people have said this multiple times that you don’t feel anything different when you arrive at the destination. Rather there is no destination as such. It is the journey which makes you better and better everyday. The journey which takes you closer towards the goal everyday. So to enjoy this journey, you have to identify those activities which are making you achieve this goal everyday in your life. Add those activities in your daily routine. List your current time spent on Shallow Work. Replace it with Deep Work. Examine the pros and cons of each major task, and ascertain whether they drive you towards your goals or not. Create an environment conducive to deep work. Reduce distractions, and eliminate Shallow Work from your day.

Making it a Ritual

Rituals mean routine. Routines bring out discipline. Don’t make it about your willpower. Just make it a part of your daily routine. You wake up at the same time everyday. You brush your teeth at the same time. You sleep at the same time. All these rituals are part of your daily routine. When you add your activities as a part of your daily routine, which act as Deep Work, it does not come across as something unnatural. Rather you will end up doing this everyday, without even realizing it. Just the way you hold your toothbrush even when your eyes are closed in the morning.

I’m planning to share more such insights from the books I’m reading. Let me know if you would like to read them in my blogs. Thank you.

Recommended books mentioned in this blog

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