“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
We are on our journey to understand and internalise the Ten Commandments to improve our Power of Focus. Last week we had looked at the first four, have a look at them and then we move on to the remaining six.
Begin with the end in mind.
Learn to say NO.
Spend some time with you.
5. Have Measurable Goals
We all are blessed with 24 hours in a day for us to be productive in our pursuits or waste this precious resource. The problem is that many a time we realise that we had been wasting our time only in retrospect. In the office, you go for a cup of coffee, basically to have a break, find a group of friends chatting, join the group, and before long, one hour has passed. You reluctantly go back to work and start but find your focus diffused and it takes you nearly half an hour to get back to the intensity with which you were working before the small coffee break. Similarly, you casually start to check your Social Media sites – WhatsApp leads to Facebook which leads to Twitter which leads to Instagram and so on. Pretty soon, a couple of hours go past and something important that you had intended to finish in those hours remain pending. No wonder, people spend long hours at “work.”
The major leaks in our focus and productivity occur because we don’t start our day with clear cut goals to be achieved that day. Why a day, we don’t have clear cut goals for the week or the month which in turn means that we have no clear-cut goals for our lives. Sounds terrible no? But I have merely extrapolated a day to thousands of similar unproductive days, which is all we have in terms of what we call life. The clarion call is to always have well-defined and duly-prioritised goals before you begin a year/month/week or day. Let me put forth a model that I follow and have found to be very effective.
Open your Wheel of Life in front of you and look intently at the hub (family) and the six spokes. Where do you see yourself after five years on the hub and spokes? If five years appear too long to be visualised, how about three years? Definitely, never start your goal setting with a goal less than six months away because even your five-yearly goal will be brought down to one or half-year chunks.
Let’s take the example of the “financial” spoke of your Wheel of Life. Your five-yearly goal may be to own a house after this period. The Power of Focus must kick in straightaway- do you clearly visualise the kind of house you want to own? Is it a Villa, a penthouse, a flat; how big is the house- one/two or more bedrooms; which city is it located in? Having answered these basic questions for yourself, now get on to some more research- how much this house of your dreams will cost today? Having done this, project this amount five years forward and calculate its likely cost then. We have a plethora of online Compound Interest Calculators for such calculations. Say, the house costs Rs. 50 Lakh today. Assuming the inflation rate to be 6% (this is a good thumb rule figure), the likely cost of the house after five years will be Rs. 67 Lakh. Sort of hits you, right, the jump from Rs. 50 to 67 Lakhs in merely five years? But that is the pernicious power of inflation.
Now, the next step is to decide (focus again) how would you raise this amount? A good thumb rule is to save at least 20% of the house cost and go in for a house loan for the remaining 80%. So, you need to save Rs. 13 Lakh (20% of Rs. 67 lakh) over the next five years (I have rounded off the amount for simple calculations.) Go back to the Compound Interest Calculator and key in the figures, you will find that you need to save Rs. 19,000 per month and invest it wisely to get a return of 6% CAGR on your investments. Since the time horizon is five years, a suitable instrument will be debt (not equity), where only such rates of interest will be possible.
Hmmm, that sounds like a seriously big amount, since so far you had been spending everything that you were earning. Enter the focus on cutting the cost of living now. Write down your expenses under two heads – Must (Needs), and should/could (Wants.) Needs are what you must have/do to survive and have a decent living. So, Roti, Kapda and Makaan (food, clothes and shelter) will top the list. Discretion is the need of the hour here – a Pizza and a glass of beer is also as much food as a simple home-cooked meal. Similarly, owning 2-3 pairs of jeans viz-a-viz 20 pairs is a very personal decision. What else is a need? Transportation, utilities, expenses on medical-related issues (that’s why Health Insurance is so important), obligatory expenses like children school fee, dues on your credit card, could be considered a few of them. Ask yourself this question – can I survive without this thing for a month? If the answer is Yes, it’s not a Need.
Wants will vary from person to person but few may be common. Outings, movies, dinners, vacations, owning a pet, furniture items, a particular brand of bike/car, smartphones or smartwatch etc. could be a few of them. Now since you have to scrape together Rs 19000 per month, the Wants would have to be removed or moderated. Make a list, don’t deny yourself the simple pleasures of life but be prudent. Maybe instead of going out for dinner every week, make it a fortnightly affair. It’s a personal call but one has to be ruthless to follow whatever one decides. Every additional expenditure on your Wants will push your dream house away from you. Money is finite and fungible and we require our Power of Focus to channelise it correctly.
Pick out one thing on each spoke and hub in this manner e.g., on the Physical Spoke, you may like to lose 10 Kg of weight in the next six months or run a Marathon after six months. Break down all these goals into tangible Yearly/ Monthly/Weekly and daily goals. Write down these goals on a piece of paper and place it somewhere where you will see it often. Before you go off to sleep every night, go over your activities of the day and see if they align with your goals. If your goal is to lose weight, maybe you should have avoided that sinful dessert and opted for a fruit helping instead? If your goal is to run Marathon, why did you put off your alarm and went off to sleep in the morning instead of going for a run? This nightly review will ensure that you stay on course the next day.
It is always better to set small, viable and measurable goals rather than huge ones which may appear too formidable. So, break down your goal into smaller ones as discussed earlier. If you decide to write a book by March 2022, which may be around 60,000 words long, just write 200 words per day, and you will finish your book well before time even catering to disruptions. Doesn’t this so-called formidable goal appear more manageable now? Let us see another real-life example.
We all know about the fantastic vision of the Wright brothers which enabled humans to fly and due to which the final frontier, space is being explored and indeed may be the next destination for humans to settle down. In fact, there are organizations like “The Lunar Registry” which are selling land on the moon. We will not debate the legality of such transactions but instead, focus on the feats of the Wright brothers which made such transactions possible. It is true that the Wright brothers had a grand and breath-taking vision, but did they just have an idea one day and ended up flying the next day? Not by a long shot, their journey was very deliberate, resource consuming and excruciatingly slow. They had to go through a series of sub-goals before achieving that grand vision.
The first sub-goal one was indeed very modest- designing and selling their own bicycles from 1892 onwards. This endeavour gave them insight into basic machine handling and thinking out of the box. They were avid followers of the German aviator Otto Lilienthal who was into designing gliders and which gave them the motivation to start their experiments with flying. The Wright brothers then decided to move to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which was known for its strong winds, a boon for flight testing. The next challenge was to design wings for the flight for which they worked out many designs. However, the idea for their final successful design, called “Wing Warping”, came from observing birds in their flight. The Wright brothers emulated the birds as they went about angling their wings for balance and control. This basic concept successfully got their machine airborne, but how were they to change the direction of flight?
Further research went on to design a moveable rudder for yaw control which saw Wilbur Wright flying the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven, heavier-than-air aeroplane, all for 12 glorious seconds – on December 17, 1903. So, did they live happily ever after? No. There was heavy scepticism and criticism of the Wright brothers which forced them to migrate to France in 1908 where they found their calling in the form of encouraging audience and funding for further research. They continued to improve and test flight their designs and gained considerable fame in the process. Riches were soon to follow when the Wright brothers started selling their aeroplanes in Europe. They returned to the USA in 1909 as wealthy businessmen with lucrative contracts from all over Europe and the USA. We see here the fruition of a grand dream, held steady over more than a decade but which was matured through very well laid out goals and sub-goals.
So, ask yourself these questions before investing your time, energy, and effort in any pursuit – what you are doing right now, will that matter to you one year, five years or ten years from now? Or, visualize yourself five or ten years from now – what you would like to be doing and how? Are you currently doing what is consistent with that image? Or, if you have only six months to live, what would you like to do more or less or would like to stop or start? Are you doing things accordingly now? These questions will bring focus to your life goals.
Try this method for just one month and notice the apparent miracles in your life.
6. Reverse Pilot Test
This interesting test is from the book, Essentialism by George McKeown and is amazingly simple but very effective. We all do a multitude of activities in a day and each one of them costs us time, effort and money. Many a time, we don’t even realise whether the activity is having the intended effect on our target audience. For example, I write this weekly blog which takes a fair amount of time and I do it for two reasons. Firstly, I like writing and secondly, I want to share my experiences and knowledge with my readers. If I want to do the Reverse Pilot Test on this activity, I just stop doing it i.e., stop writing the blog from today. If I get no feedback from the readers meaning no one asking me why the blog was not published last Sunday, it’s time to relook at this activity. While I may keep writing for my own pleasure, the second reason for writing clearly stands negated.
It is a good idea to review all the major activities you do in a day and ask yourself the question, “Why am I doing it?” If the activities are germane to your Wheel of Life goals and are having the desired effect on the intended outcomes, by all means, continue doing them. However, if the activity is not making a dent in the goals, get rid of them. This simple exercise will free you of the non-essentials of your life and give you the requisite focus. In the next part of the series, we’ll tackle the remaining four commandments.
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