Helping Creative People Create

Persistence Needs a Metric

by glen

I love the idea of persistence.  It’s an intriguing concept.  Many times people come up short in achieving their goals because they can see the big picture, but they don’t see all the little details that go into achieving something.  That’s why I’m such a proponent of GTD.  GTD allows you to break down your projects into every feasible action that’s required, from start to finish.  There’s no guesswork to completion, and if you know what always needs to be done, there’s less stress.

This article was partially inspired by a post at the excellent Life Coaches Blog, which included this simple quote:

 I find we often overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a year.

Boy, did that hit home for me.  I may have big ideas for this year, but I won’t complete them if I don’t proceed with a steady diligence that can be tracked.

Persistence + Metrics

You need to find a way to measure your goals, no matter what they are.  Most successful people will tell you that measuring goals is the key to achieving anything. Why?  Because measuring what you’ve done gives you motivation to keep going.  And if you keep pushing on, you’ll likely succeed with your goal.

I won’t even go into the standard cliches of the Tortoise and the Hare or the standard “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yuck.  That’s not really a wise saying, but rather common sense.

But maybe that’s the point.  That’s all persistence really is anyway: Common sense.  It just needs to be weighed and inspected at regular intervals to be truly effective.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett McKay March 26, 2007 at 6:53 am

I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to track my goals. Any suggestions?

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glen March 26, 2007 at 10:09 am

Well, for starters you could try JoesGoals.com. It’s really simple and straightforward. It essentially allows you to track all of those things that you should be doing every day.

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Andy Mitchell March 28, 2007 at 8:03 am

Glen,

I’m really interested in this angle to productivity. With GTDInbox, all we (currently) really concentrate on is the day to day details. Which; while great for actually getting things done, doesn’t solve the “headless chicken” problem of knowing you’ve got stuff to do, but no longer knowing _why_. I.e. no overarching ‘goal’.

In the case of GTD, I’ve always maintained – along with Allen’s thinking – that a ‘Project’ is your goal. The view that you never achieve a goal (Project), you just do ‘tasks’ that slowly lead you towards ‘close-enough’ to completion. After all, what exactly is ‘complete’? To define that would be pointless, and immensely time consuming: a variation of the 80/20 rule (80% is ‘good enough’, 100% is ‘complete’).

But for me, there is no bridge between an ‘action’/’task’ and a ‘Goal’. Suppose I had a goal to “Double the value of my house”. That would not immediately require ‘actions’. I would want to break it into Projects – “Decorate Dining Room”, “Add Conservatory”, etc.
What I’m saying is, Projects need a high level to be grouped into, and that’s where Desires/Goals come in.

For me, that’s step one. The tricky part is that’s just increased the maintenance load to be productive (3 layers is quite a lot of mental work).

The next stage is then quantifying those actions.
When you don’t know what complete is, how can you tell how close you are?! You can know how much you’ve achieved.

There are all sorts of questions once you have metrics,
* How much of the work I did was valuable (point: what can I cut out in future to achieve more?)
* How close am I to hitting my goals? (as a %)
* What stands between me and hitting my goals? (tasks left)
* What are the chances of hitting the goals before their deadline (how much to do vs. time left) -> this relates to your quote, ‘underestimate what you can do in a year’.

Then there’s your point, the ‘motivation to keep going’. I like that.
I like the idea you can look at an old Project, see how long it took, see what actions it was composed of, and use that as a predictor for future Projects.
I like the idea you can have the instant ‘strike-off’ satisfaction of getting things done, anytime, just by looking at recent projects/tasks achieved.
I like the fact you can look and see “well, it seems I have more of this year left than I thought I did!”, and then do more. And on that, I like the fact a system like this would let you plan your year in such broad strokes. You know, define a ‘goal’ and estimate time taken. Then, the second you start adding Actions (with their own mini time estimate), the Goal no longer has a time estimate, instead, the time is based on the Actions still to do (basically, build time predictions bottom up, except at the very beginning). On that note, I tend to make very crude time estimations to the nearest 30/60 minutes, to work out what I can achieve in any day.

Why is this relevant? One of the things that is ‘itching’ us over at GTDInbox is the ultimate (which for me, is also the most simple) productivity system. I’d love to engage some more discussion on this topic…

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