It is one thing to be filled with enthusiasm over one or more tasks that you plan to accomplish during the next six months, but it is entirely something different to actually begin (I read somewhere today that it's o.k. to split an occasional infinitive, so don't email me about my bad grammar) the task or tasks you have identified and then continue to make progress in achieving your goals. The gap between knowing we need or want to do something and actually doing what we thought we were going to do is the gap of doom. The gap of doom is where good intentions die and go permanently to rest.
The gap of doom reminds me of the treacherous road on the south Hana highway on the island of Maui where our bus driver stopped for a minute after rattling our insides into total mush on the roughest road we had ever traveled on and then pointed out a vehicle that had met its doom on the narrow and dangerous road and rested permanently at the bottom of the ravine.
If we have identified some things we want to accomplish during the next six months, we do not want to make the mistake of running off the road and over the edge and then plunge into the depths below as one doomed driver did on the Hana road. If you are like I am, we have made the mistake of letting good intentions wither away and vanish far too many times. Now our task is to navigate from our resolutions and planned tasks into the process of actually doing the work and taking the steps to complete what we start to do.
One way to make sure we not only get a start on fulfilling our good intentions but also that we stay in gear and don't fizzle out a few days or weeks down the road is to set an agenda. One of the inescapable and, for me at least, time-wasting chores of spending decades in academia was attendance at what was gloriously named "The Faculty Meeting." Faculty meetings gave those loquacious and verbally eloquent faculty members opportunities to opine and pontificate their advanced intellectual conclusions and recommendations. Most of the rest of us just yawned and hoped that the Dean or department head had duly noted our faithful attendance. Meanwhile, the hydraulic hand raisers, as I called them, meaning the faculty members who could always be counted on to raise their hands and share their wisdom, kept the meeting going until the end.
I almost forgot where I was going with the previous story. My readers must realize that after teaching for 45 years I learned every side road I could go down to fill out the lecture and class period and I fear that propensity is sidetracking me here. Where I was going with the story of the faculty meeting was to point out the importance of having an agenda. An agenda is a plan for what we are going to do. A written agenda then becomes a written contract, in effect, to ensure that we will actually do what we said or thought we were going to do.
If you are a foot dragging and stubborn convert to making small changes, write out a list of at least one thing you are going to do today that will contribute to the fulfillment of your goal or goals. Not only think about what you are going to do, but make a note or two about how, just exactly, and without quibbling, you are actually going to do it. Then write an agenda for the week to follow. Identify one or two tasks each day that will get you where you want to go. Keep this agenda in your shirt pocket or purse and refer to it throughout the day in case you have a short memory span and would rather think about something more fun and entertaining than tackling a long-delayed goal.
Tomorrow is the first of July. Tomorrow is the first day of the last six months of the year 2015. July 1 is the day that we have yet to write about in our journal. What will we write about on the evening of July 1? Will we be able to say that we saw the light, lit a fire under our stubborn selves, and achieved something that could be the beginning of a landmark week or month, or will we waste another evening doing nothing worthwhile? At least until football season starts. Then watching football is definitely important and worthwhile. Tomorrow we go to work, so get serious.
Task number 180: Set Your Agenda. And then stick to it. The Curmudgeonly Professor.