I am a List Maniac! Goals or Black Holes?

10th February 2016 | Tim Benton | Revision, Motivation


I don’t know about you, but I sometime struggle with motivation.

That might seem like a strange confession from a motivational speaker and writer, but it’s true.  Sometimes I don’t seem to be able to get started.

It’s easy to mistake this for laziness – I don’t do anything because I’m lazy.  Well that’s not really true.  If any of you have seen me work, you’ll know I’m pretty energetic, passionate about what I do and give it 100%.

Yet when I’m at home, with the day ahead of me, and much I could accomplish and should accomplish, it’s a different story.  I end up wasting time on stuff that really isn’t important at all.

What I’ve learnt though is this behaviour isn’t laziness, it is often just a symptom of my lack of focus.  I find it hard to get started, because I haven’t drilled down into the specifics of exactly what it is I have to do.

Imagine playing a game of football without any goal posts, or jumpers for goal posts.  You’d aimlessly run around, passing the ball from one to another, but not actually get anywhere. Maybe you’d get distracted playing a round of ‘keepy-uppy’. Maybe you’d just get bored and go off and do something else instead.  Ice cream, anyone?

We need goals.  Goals give us focus. Without goals, you’ll just find hours of your day will vanish into The Black Hole – you’ve no idea where the time went and you’ve done nothing.  The Hole has swallowed your life!

If you see four months ahead of you until your GCSEs or your A Levels, but you don’t know what you want to do next year, or beyond, you’ll struggle to stay motivated.  You’re essentially playing without goal posts.  It’s hard to get up each morning, slope into school, work hard in lessons, take the grief from teachers (and you know they don’t hate you, right?), come home and revise, if you don’t see the point of it all.

The students I meet who work the hardest and focus the most are the ones who know what they want.  It gives them the edge.  Great exam results, I believe, are less about intelligence and more about focus.

How much do you want it?  Is that sharpening your vision? Can you see the point?  Work out what is, for you, the Big Picture.  Then go for it.

But what about maintaining that focus? Well, mini goals are also important.  We need simple victories daily.  Teenagers, particularly struggle with conceptualising the future.  Long term is hard to get your head around.  Short term is easier. So start thinking about what you can achieve in the NOW.

I have an ongoing ‘To Do’ list on my phone.  I add to it daily. I tick things off it.  Sometimes I add things I’ve done already and then tick them off, to make me feel like I’ve accomplished even more!  That’s ok. It motivates me.

Maybe you need to do that too.  At the start of the week, make your To Do list and use it to focus your efforts.

Maybe think about the order of importance too.  Somethings need to be done NOW, others soon.  What about the things you really shouldn’t do?  Maybe they need to be on the list as well.  Why not have a ‘Must Not Do’ list too.  How about rewards?  Have you made a Would Like To Do list? Everyone needs down-time.  If you’re working hard six days a week, you deserve a day off.  You’ll also work better on the other six days if you do.

I’ve found the grid below is a really good method for arranging my priorities and helping me focus.  Try completing a matrix like this now, for this week. It will help.  What are your priorities (Have To Do)?  What is the stuff that isn’t urgent, but you need to be working away at it (Should Do)?  What will make you happy as a reward for working (Want To Do)?  What must you avoid – such as watching Netflix until 3am or playing FIFA until the small hours, sitting next to your mate in science who always distracts you and stops you working (Must Not Do)?

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As for me, I need to crack on too.  I have a massive to do list and I’ve just got side-tracked writing a Blog.  But it’s all good – I’m going to add it to the Should Do column… and then I’m going to tick it!

Good luck!