|By Antonio Litterio
...on any project...
THE BIG PICTURE - whatever you want to do, whether it’s write a book, start your own business, make money, learn to cook, or grow your own food, have one specific aim in mind. Then stick to it. Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”. Label a folder (real or virtual) with the name of your project. Gather everything into it-notes, images, charts, infographics, the lot. Once you can find exactly what you’re looking for in seconds, it’ll save a lot of time time when inspiration (or desperation) strikes.
ZOOM IN - Put a filing system in place the second you start collecting stuff for your project. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Separate files within one on-line folder will be fine. A plastic wallet with dividers will store your so-called “dead-tree derivatives” (that’s paperwork, to you and me). A DL size envelope within this system is perfect for keeping scrappy notes, receipts and parking slips safe. Incidentally, expand that idea to twelve envelopes, each one labelled with a different month, and you’re on the fast track to filing your annual tax return without tears. All you have to do is remember to transfer the relevant receipts from the car, your pockets or purse into the right envelope. But do that as soon as you get them.
You know why.
FOCUS - Write down your big idea. Seeing it at the top of a blank sheet, or screen, will make it real. It’s smart to set goals, and the acronym S.M.A.R.T (used by George T.Doran, Paul J. Meyer and others) can help you reach that target. There are all sorts of alternative meanings for the initial letters, but they all come down to the same thing in the end. These are the headings I use when I’m planning a new piece of work:
SPECIFIC–this is what you want to achieve. It’s your dream. Spend some time working out exactly what it is you want to do. Be positive, and distill it into one sentence such as “I will write a book.” There's no room for want here. Think positive.
MANAGEABLE–will you be able to do this in the time you have available, and with the facilities you have? If not, either set the alarm an hour earlier each morning and borrow what you need, or revise your objective–but think carefully before doing that because A is for...
AMBITIOUS–Go for it! Aim for the stars - if you miss, the moon will break your fall. Find an inspirational quote and post it up where you’ll see it every day. Edmund Burke’s “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing” glares down at me all the time I’m writing.
REALISTIC–Ambition is indispensable, but there are limits. I come from a family of comfortably upholstered women. Much as I’d like to be a size eight, it's never going to happen. Believe me. That’s why I modified my own aim, from “getting down to 130 pounds” to “following a calorie-controlled healthy eating plan and taking more exercise for one month.” I lost 5lb without ever feeling I was on a diet, so all I need now is the willpower to repeat...and repeat...and repeat.... as necessary!
TIMETABLED–deadlines, like the threat of execution, concentrate the mind wonderfully. Draw up a list of what you need to do, and work out how long it will take. Mark the finish date in every form of diary you have. Tell yourself it’s absolutely non-negotiable. Obviously there will be times when work has to take a back seat because of illness or accident, but personal disasters apart use every carrot-and-stick you can think of to motivate yourself and hit your deadline.