Moving Forward Bit by Bit: Lab Rats Week 5

  • Someday Lesson: Finding the right level of focus for your Someday actions can be a real challenge.

A few weeks back I checked in with my Somedays, seeing how I’m doing with each of them. This week I got the Lab Rats to do the same. (And make sure you read the bottom of this post for a special offer to all of you.)

On the surface this seems like a really easy exercise: name your someday with a due date, list what needs to get done, what you’re doing now and what you’ve already done, and then note what’s missing.

However, the challenge lies in finding the right level of focus. We can be too narrow with our Somedays or too broad. When we get too narrow we focus only on the moment and lose the big picture; when we go too broad we can overwhelm ourselves with the amount of work required.

And then we have the abstract Somedays, the ones that are hard to measure – how do we go about checking in on those?

I wrote a separate post with the Lab Rats’ lists, so go over there and check it out before coming back for the discussion. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you…

Done? Excellent. Let’s discuss.

Over the past few weeks Cat and I have been tossing back and forth the pros and cons of being concrete and abstract. Concrete gives her measurable goals and something to feel that she’s actually moving forward on, but there’s not a whole lot of passion behind it. The abstract has fewer measurables, but creates a strong reaction and I can feel Cat’s passion for the subject in her answers.

Without knowing the full details of her situation I would say that she’s making excellent progress with both the concrete and the abstract Somedays, except for one small thing that has me concerned. Cat mentions that she is: “starting to tackle a project that I really don’t want to do and have put off doing for over a year now.”

A lack of passion kills our desire to do things, and strongly not wanting to do something makes every step forward feel like we’re wearing one hundred pound shoes. Given that Cat has expressed a lack of vision about the future in other posts, I wonder if this remark offers us a clue as to why. If the future is full of things we would really rather not do, then why would we want to look to the future at all? There’s nothing exciting or interesting there, just drudgery and hard work.

Perhaps there is something else she might do that will produce a similar goal but displease her less. Or (my favorite) don’t do it at all and find something that does interest her.

Jim also started with a very abstract goal, which last week he made concrete with his desire to become a composer/songwriter. This week he took that new goal and focused right down to the level of writing and recording a song and doing it in under two weeks.

I wonder, however, if that is just a step in the process to getting rid of his Someday – a kind of test to show that yes, he can do and yes, he has a passion/talent for it.

Perhaps a single step backwards where the song composition/recording is one of several stops along the journey might serve Jim better, but I actually like that he’s chosen this. He’s giving himself a quick victory and then once he’s achieved that he can make a broader plan.

Jim definitely gets bonus points, however, for recognizing his distractions and named them. They are all productive things, but in this case they act as distractions to his current goal, so he needs to be aware of when he’s using them for procrastination.

Let’s go the other end of the spectrum now with Brett. He wants to renovate the whole house by the end of the year. A great goal and depending on how much work needs to be done, it could be doable. However the label he uses would overwhelm me – the whole house in eight months? If I were in his shoes, I would likely drop out at some point after the first piece of the larger project was mostly finished. I just can’t hold that many details in my mind at once.

Maybe instead Brett could pull out each of the pieces: downstairs, upstairs, kitchen, bathroom, and shed and make each one of them a Someday. That way he could work on any piece of them at any one time, maintaining interest in the whole project while moving everything forward bit by bit.

Some people pay off their credit cards by paying the minimum on each one except for the one with the lowest total (which they really concentrate on) then when that gets paid off, rolling the full payment of that one into the next card, building a momentum of cash until all the cards are paid off.

Perhaps Brett could do the same with renovations. After he figures out what would be the equivalent of a minimum payment in each space (likely clearing out and organizing) he could move each piece forward bit by bit but focus his main efforts on the area that requires the least amount of work.

Then when that’s done he could devote all the time and energy that the first project took to the second and so on until all five areas of the house are finished. There’s no sense of being overwhelmed because it all moves forward and momentum will carry Brett through the more difficult pieces of the project because he will already have some victories and will be in practice of working at a certain level.

And now let’s finish off with Barb’s Someday. She’s got the balance just right. It’s a concrete goal that’s also broad enough to include the big picture. She doesn’t know exactly how long it will take her, but she has set a deadline for getting started. And with the work she’s already done, I have no doubt that in September we’ll see Barb back at school.

And now a bonus for the readers. If you put your Someday checklist in the comments below or send it to me via the contact form, I’ll give you feedback on it, just as I did for the Lab Rats. Deadline for submission will be next Wednesday (the 22nd).

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