Clay Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor specializing in the future of work and how to set smart work goals.
If you are have trouble finding your business niche perhaps his suggestions will help you on your way.
Before you set a goal
Dr Christensen suggests taking a step back. Most people start planning by setting goals. Dr. Christensen suggest that you cannot set realistic goals until you know your purpose in life. What is you calling?
I’m a conservationist. I want to help people live a productive, sustainable life. Hawaiians call it being pono and it means living in harmony with each other and with our earth.
Here are some of Dr. Christensen’s thoughts on how to live a productive life.
Understand your values. Values can usually be expressed in a word or two. If you value honesty, loyalty and caring for others those values will guide your purpose in life.
Your calling must be consistent with your values.
When you understand your purpose, picking your niche is relatively easy, but for me it has not been that easy. I spent 30 years working for various federal and state conservation organizations. When I retired, I lost my way for 10 years while I tried to make enough income to survive in retirement in one of the highest cost of living states in the union.
During that time I had a variety of sales, computer and conservation gigs, but I lacked focus. Gradually, I realized that most people work to survive. The are drifting without purpose. Their only goal is to provide for their family and sometimes it isn’t even that.
This article is about setting goals, but goals without purpose are meaningless.
How we spend our time determines what we do in life. Usually, we work for our bosses goals and our life goals overwhelmed by outside forces.
So what are the qualities of a well crafted goal?
My wife says I have to many interests. I’m sure she is right. When I try to do to many things, I get a little bit done on each thing and accomplish nothing.
Try to focus your goals on those things that are most important to you and do not work on more than three goals at a time.
Break you goals down into small measurable steps and put a deadline on each step. That way you will see progress toward your goal. Being able to mark off your progress helps motivate you to keep going.
What matters is how you spend your time
You can talk about your goals all you like, but what matters is how you spend your time. Block out the time on your calendar when you will work on the most important thing in your life. Consider that time an appointment you cannot break. I use block journaling to plan and record my life. It lets me see what I have accomplished and what I plan to do. It is old-fashioned pen and paper, but it works for me. I’m a computer guy, so I also use Evernote, Trello and Planyway. They integrate beautifully and providing all the planning capability most people need. I track my time using Toggl. Explaining how I use those tools will take another article, but you can Google them.
Watch how you use your time and your money. If you are not working on your goals you are wasting your life. When the way you live your life is inconsistent with your calling, you are headed in the wrong direction. When you focus on your life purpose all your decisions will be much easier. Your purpose will guide your goals and your goals will determine how you live your life. On the river of life, if your boat looses its rudder you may get swamped in the rapids of life.
How do you know if your life is on track? Make a lot of little failures. People often develop a strategy for accomplishing their goals but fail to test whether the strategy is working. The result is by the time the figure out things are not working they are already facing catastrophic failure.
Know your calling.
Be sure what you are doing is consistent with your values.
Identify what you must do to accomplish your calling.
Break those goals down into measurable objectives that have realistic deadlines.
Watch how you use your time and your money.
Check often to be sure the strategies you are using are working.
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No one knows how long our clock will tick, so make good use of your time every day. Decide what is important to you and use the ABC technique to make it happen.
My number one goal is to is to develop a passive, recurring income. I call it working my Money Line. This is my “A” Goal. “A” is reserved for goals that create income. Developing and promoting client websites is an “A” goal if I am getting paid to do it. If not, it slips into a “B” category. “B” is reserved for community service projects and other pro bono work I believe is important. “C” is reserved for family projects and other unplanned projects that are imposed on me.
“A” is high value because it is my money line. “B” is medium value because these are volunteer projects I believe are important, and “C” is for projects I have to do but do not lead to accomplishing my goals. They are low value in terms of accomplishing my goals, but they may be urgent and can take priority over A and B goals.
The next step in the ABC time management technique is to break down the ABC categories further into A-1, A-2, A-3, B-1, B-2, B-3 priorities. This is when the ABC system becomes an effective tool in planning how you spend your time. Remember, priorities can change during the day and that will determine what you actually do. A plan that doesn’t change with circumstances is an obsolete plan. Your lists must be flexible.
Using ABC Priorities With Goal Setting
Working together works best.
To identify your lifetime goals, your 3-year goals, and your six-month goals, label the three most important goals in each category (high, medium, and urgent.) Urgent goals should be projects that cannot be completed in an hour. If you can get an urgent task done quickly, do it now and don’t bother listing it. If you have too many urgent tasks you have to learn to say NO! If an urgent task will take more than an hour list it. Then, prioritize the three most import urgent tasks you need to complete.
Now, pick out the most important 3 goals from your list. Define the objectives you need to accomplish to achieve your goal. Objectives must have a deadline and be defined in a way that clearly states what must be done to accomplish the objective. Now get out your calendar and block out the time when you will work on each objective. This is time for deep work with no interruptions except to take a break every half hour to get up and walk around.
You now have a Lifetime Goals Statement, and you know what you must do to make your life productive. The ABC system helps you define exactly what you must do at any point in your life to accomplish what you believe is important. Your time is targeted and not wasted.
In other words, the ABC time management techniquegets you targeted on exactly what you want to do with your life at this particular time.
Your Lifetime Goals Statement changes with time. Review your lifetime goals and your 3-year plan at least annually. Your daily plan will change as circumstances change. Just don’t let your deep time work get swamped by urgent stuff like email. Break your objectives down into short tasks so you can check off your accomplishments. Nothing is more motivational than seeing things get done on your calendar.
Prioritize your goals. Prioritize the Objectives that will accomplish those goals. Identify the tasks that must be completed to achieve your objectives. Work on your highest priority tasks each day. Accomplishing a tough task does wonders for your self-esteem.
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Smart Creatives don’t starve. In fact, with routine jobs being automated it will be the creative people who thrive.
Today the internet provides Creatives a way to cut out the middle man and sell directly to their fans. In fact, crowd funding platform Patreon.com allows Creatives to interact directly with their fans and provides a way fans can support their favorite creatives.
What is your calling?
What life do you want?
The age old question of the human race is, “Why am I here?” What is calling you? What important things do you want to accomplish? Sometimes our calling comes to us in a flash of understanding. More often circumstances guide our lives. Only when we become seriously dissatisfied will we pause to take a look at our future. When we recognize our life is not going the way we want, understanding our calling will guide our future decisions. Our calling may change. I spent most of my life working as a forester. I will always work to leave a better world for my kids, but recently I have gotten more involved in community disaster preparedness. I soon recognized that it takes money to be prepared. That lead me to help people start internet businesses that can create the additional income they need.
Your re-evaluation can happen anytime in your life. It used to be called a mid-life crisis. Now it is called pivoting. When done right It can bring satisfaction and a sense of purpose to our lives. I think it is helpful to put our thoughts, experiences, and remembrances down on paper. Study your list for common threads running through your life. What do you like doing? What is just a chore? What accomplishment gave you the most satisfaction? At first your list may look chaotic, but usually, there will be a theme running through your life. Your evaluation can help you understand what you want to accomplish in life. That is your calling.
Creative people don’t do what they do to become famous or to make lots of money. They create because they must. The problem is a creative must earn a living. So here are a few suggestions.
Practice in public
The internet gives us a unique opportunity to share our creations with the world. Creating is about being the best we can be. You don’t become a writer until you start writing. You don’t become a photographer without taking pictures. And, you do not become a musician without playing your instrument. Practice your craft every day. That is my challenge to you. Practice your craft in public. That means you have to show your work to the world.
Traditionally, you would show your art at a gallery or hang it on a fence next to a busy sidewalk. Music might be promoted by cutting records and sending them to radio stations around the country. Books were published by publishers and movies were created by MGM, Disney, and RKO. Now we can use our computer to create our video and share it on YouTube, We can create pod casts and self-publish our books. The internet has opened a world of opportunity to Creatives.
You need a platform. A platform is simply a stage that allows you to connect with your audience. Tony Robbins may be the person whose platform first comes to mind. He has addressed audiences from stages all over the world. But he doesn’t stop there. He has a website, a social media following and even sells his work in Apple Store. You can learn a lot about your internet platform by studying his website. He even has an affiliate program that pays a 15% commission on sales from your website.
The simplest platform for you to set up is your website/blog, your social media and your email list of fans who have asked you to share your craft with them. Post your articles, your art work or your video to your website at least weekly. Many factors go into getting good search engine rankings and getting traffic to your site, but the most important by far is to keep your website fresh and interesting with helpful content. The key to a good blog is to be entertaining, relevant to your audience and helpful. Every page and post you write should end in a tripwire encouraging your reader to join your mailing list. For more information on using the internet as your platform click here.
Charge what you are worth
The biggest mistake a freelancer makes is not charging what you are worth. I recommend setting the price you want to receive. Be sure to recognize your need to pay yourself benefits. $150/hr is my standard fee. You won’t be able to fund your health insurance and retirement program if you charge much less. In prioritizing your time, do the things that will make you money first. Any pro-Bono work has to take a lower priority. I always ask what a potential client’s budget is. I set the absolute minimum I will work for. If it is a project I want to be involved in, I will negotiate down till I am within their budget. That will usually involve revising the scope of the project. If it is a non-profit I believe in, I prefer to contribute my work as a volunteer rather than cheapening my work by cutting my price. I can add to my portfolio, get a recommendation and do something worthwhile.
Build a portfolio of diverse income streams.
Successful creatives diversify their incomes. 30% of their income might come from sales of their book or movie. 30% from speaking tours and 40% from providing coaching in their area of expertise. Be generous. Give examples of your work away in return for getting their email in your opt-in list. Then sell your book. Then sell on line coaching. Then offer to work with a client in one-on-one coaching sessions. It is called a sales ladder, and it is a way to upsell your client while providing them valuable service. By starting with a giveaway and working up to progressively more expensive projects, your client learns to trust in your ability to help.
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The National Geographic made a study of communities around the world where people live exceptionally long lives. They found nine common elements among those communities. They were things like an active lifestyle, a low-fat diet, a supportive ohana and living with purpose.
For me, living with purpose is most important. One of the things I want to do is to help people be more resilient personally and financially. Futurists and project managers define a future scenario they want to accomplish. Then they work backward to break the project down into measurable steps. When you check off an accomplishment, you know you are moving towards your goal and it motivates you to continue.
Living with purpose will lead to a happier, longer, and more productive life. I talked with people from the Blue Zone Project. We discussed living with purpose and some of the other things you can do to live longer, better and achieve those things that are important to you. Check out our conversation by clicking here.
No one knows how much time they will have on this earth. It is up to us to make good use of the time we have. If someone wants you to do something and you cannot say, “Hell YES, I want to do this” give them a polite “NO.”
I am a strong believer in living my life with purpose and with resilience. Knowing your reason for being is important because your purpose should guide everything you do. If a goal you have set is not consistent with your reason for living, you are on the wrong track. If your purpose and your values are not in alignment with what you have to do at work, you have the wrong job.
Being resilient is important for two reasons:
Being resilient prepares you to respond to opportunities.
Being resilient means you can spring back from adversity quickly.
There are three aspects to resilient living:
Opportunity When you see an opportunity you want to pursue, become an expert on the subject. Study everything you can about the opportunity. Then share your new ability with others. You must create a team of fans who want to know what you know and some of whom will want to work with you.
Preparedness You must prepare to deal with whatever life throws your way. Think about the risks you face. What will you do when a natural disaster strikes? Can you deal with an accident? How will you deal with a serious illness? The answer boils down to having the supplies financial resources you need to respond and recover.
Income Taking advantage of an opportunity and preparing for emergencies depends on having an adequate income. If you are living paycheck to paycheck your choices are limited.
Plan to carry out your purpose
Successful people know what they want to do in their lives and, They have a written plan to guide the steps they must take to succeed. When you define your purpose, you priorities will change.
Make sure you keep balance in your life. People’s lives are complex. Understand what is important in you life.
You have many demands on your life:
I try to assign a day of the week when I will devote a couple of hours a day to one of the things that is important to me.
Sunday for faith.
Saturday Home and family.
Monday and Wed my business.
Tuesday, Community Service.
You get the idea. It is only a guide. I usually have to shift things around, but it helps me be sure important things are not neglected.
IMPLEMENTING YOUR PLAN
When you first start implementing your plan you may have to do everything yourself. I guarantee that will not be the most efficient use of your time.
Is yard work something you enjoy or something you must do. How about washing your windows? Do you do it because you cannot afford to hire someone to do it for you? How are you going to do what is important to you, if you constantly have to do things that are not important? If you want to do more, you are either going to have to delegate cutting the lawn to your kids or hire a yard service. If you cannot do either you will have to set priorities. Cut the lawn once a month instead of once a week and devote the other 6 hours to more important things.
Time is the one resource in your life that you cannot store. You can spend your time watching TV, playing with your kids or building your business. How you spend your time determines what you do with your life.
USE YOUR TIME WITH PURPOSE AND LIVE A LONGER, HAPPIER MORE FULFILLED LIFE.
The 21st Century workforce is changing faster than could ever be imagined.
Globalization and new technology are changing the kinds of jobs that are available. Manufacturing jobs are being replaced by smart machines. Cash register clerks will be sensors that know what you took off the shelf and charge your credit card as you leave the store. No lines and no waiting. Truck drivers will be replaced by self-driving trucks. How is your job going to be affected? If your work is routine and repetitive, it will be gone in 10 years.