Today in the last of a series on reaching long-term goals, I offer age-old wisdom from Stephen Covey along with a simple, specific tactic.
First, the tactic: create two-week goals. Take the big long-term goal that you have, and ask yourself this simple question: “What can I accomplish in two weeks that will lead me toward achievement of this big goal?” I have found that two weeks is a long enough period that you can make real progress on a large project. In a busy life, a week just may not be enough. On the other hand, two weeks is a short enough period of time that you have to move; you can’t delay getting going if you want something to show for yourself.
The age-old wisdom comes from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in which Stephen Covey drew for us his famous four quadrant box (if your browser works, you’ll see it below) or you can see it here. Covey’s four boxes put important things on top and unimportant on the bottom. And they put urgent matters on the left and not urgent matters on the right. So Covey, along with other management experts, recommends that you minimize the time you spend on “not urgent and not important” (quadrant 4) activities. Of course, most of us will naturally take care of the urgent and important (quadrant 1).
Where Covey’s quadrants are particularly helpful though is in helping us move to spending precious time and energy on “not urgent but important” (quadrant 2) activities, rather than on “urgent but not important” (quadrant 3) activities. Often, due to a felt lack of urgency, our big long-term goals languish in quadrant two. Going back to school, trying a new career, shifting into a new business market, or working on our marriage can all be things which we long to take on, but which simply are not urgent in the habits of our days. Losing weight can stay in quadrant 3 “important but not urgent” for years, until a heart attack or stroke yank it into quadrant one – urgent and important.
If there’s a goal that’s important to you, yet not urgent on this Monday morning, I encourage you to bump it up on your list. Ask where you want to be on that goal in 2 weeks, tell a friend you’ve set the goal, and go on ahead and
Lead with your best (most important) self,